By Philip Yatai

Kaduna State Government and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Wednesday met to strengthen citizens’ participation in the budgeting process under the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Mrs Umma Aboki, Permanent Secretary, Planning and Budget Commission (PBC), disclosed this in Kaduna at the meeting of Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Technical Working Group (TWG) on Open Budget.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the state government had made a commitment in its OGP State Action Plan, 2021 to 2023, to ensure that citizens make input into the budgeting process.

Aboki said that the meeting of the TWG was to discuss the responsibilities of government and citizens and also map out ways of ensuring that citizens made input to the 2023 budget.

“This is why we are starting early. We also plan to extend this engagement to the local government level to ensure a robust engagement of the budget process at the grassroots.

“Last year, we could not hold the budget town hall meeting, but the State Assembly was able to organise a budget public hearing that provided citizens the opportunity to engage the budget,” she said.

She lauded the strong collaboration between government and civil society, and stressed the need for continued engagement to strengthen collaboration for better results.

Also speaking, the Director of Budget, PBC, Mr Idris Suleiman, also assured that steps were being taken to ensure that the Community Development Charter (CDC) informed the budget at the state level.

Suleiman, who is the Government Co-Chairman, TWG on Open Budget, described the CDC as a written document containing the development needs of a community listed in order of priority.

He added that the CDC would be included in the Budget Calendar and the Budget Manual as part of efforts to institutionalise the CDC in the budgeting process.

Earlier, the Citizens’ Co-Chairman of the TWG, Mr Joshua James, said that the objective of the meeting was to sensitise members of the TWG on the Second State Action Plan and review progress and challenges.

James added that the meeting was also to strengthen the TWG to engage in the implementation of the 2022 budget, and to strategise for robust engagement of the 2023 budget.

He pointed out that currently, citizens do not have sufficient information about the budgeting process, which weakens citizens’ input and demand for accountability in resource allocation and utilisation.

“There is also the absence of the Kaduna Budget Manual that accommodates the provisions of the CDC and lump sum provision in some budget lines with no clarity to enable citizens to track implementation.

“There is the need, therefore, for improved citizens’ engagement and participation in budget preparation, approval, implementation, and monitoring processes,” he said.

NAN also reports that the Kaduna state government is equally committed to making budget inputs and information available and accessible to all citizens promptly and in a usable format.

The state also pledged to institutionalise the CDC in the State budget manual to guarantee the sustainability of civic participation.

This, according to the government, would improve accountability and transparency in the budget process and ensure that citizens were engaged throughout the budget cycle. (NAN)