The seemingly infrastructural deficit in the five states of the southeast geo political zone could be tackled should policy implementers involve the people in the budgeting process.
Stakeholders at a two day experience sharing on participatory governance forum organized by DFID’s Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) programme in collaboration with the African Heritage Institution, held at Abakaliki, Ebonyi state, said the zone with its peculiar nature requires the inputs of the masses in her budgetary efforts to overcome the challenges of infrastructure.
The participants said that integrating the people who should be direct beneficiaries of annual budgets will help government ascertain their areas of need and inculcate them in the budgeting process, rather than the current practice, where government determines what they get from the budget.
The forum, which drew participants from the civil society, town unions, ministries, departments and agencies in the five states in the zone, agreed that Anambra and Enugu states models have helped encourage participatory budgets into governance activities by the people, stressing that documents from interactions with the people now guides yearly budgeting processes in the two states.
They agreed that Enugu through a presentation on the Visit Every Community (VEC) initiative by Eric Oluedo that the former administration of Sullivan Chime anchored its development strides on demands in the documents, stressing that the yearly budgets were planned using the documents.
They stated that since 2008 in which the effort started, it was subjected to periodic reviews in which projects not captured during the year were referred to the coming year, adding that the documents emanated from visits of government functionaries to the 472 communities of the state.
Partcipants said the government has gone further to institutionalize the effort by creating a directorate for it in the governor’s office, adding that there were plans to give it a legal backing in the state and ensure that communities are visited yearly to review performance.
Anambra in this presentation said before 2006, only the ministries, departments and agencies in the state along with the legislature and the State Executive Council participated in the budget process. They said the situation changed in 2007 when the administration of Peter Obi started organizing the annual Budget Forum where non state actors were invited. The development was said to have given rise to other participatory budget strategies in operation in the state include Community Charter of Demand (CCD) and Community Based Monitors (CBM).
Other states of the zone presented various ways in which their governments have prepared the yearly budgets, beginning with the line ministries, agencies and finally the House of Assembly and formal presentation by their governor.
State Team leader, DFID, Mrs Ifeoma Chukwuma had told the forum that the purpose was to facilitate experience sharing between the five states using budget as the entry point as well as explore and replicate best practices among the states.
She said it was also to review their approach and extent of citizen’s engagement and participation in governance in order to improve service delivery in the zone, adding that each state had developed models that had worked for it in governance processes.