A two - day workshop on training of civil society stakeholders on budget monitoring and basic economic literacy, organised by NDEBUMOG in conjunction with OXFAM in Nigeria on Thursday 14th and Friday 15th September, 2017 at UM-NEAK Hotels Limited, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. It was part of the Strategic Partnership Program (SPP) on Financing for Development being implemented in Nigeria by Oxfam through its strategic partners. The training was aimed at building the capacity of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to monitor budget and also understand basic economic concepts at helping them to undertake effective budget/project monitoring and evaluation.
Participants were drawn from CSOs, including NDEBUMOG’s Team, SPP Partners, and some local NGOs, from Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Enugu, the FCT, Lagos, Delta State; and Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, as well as the media.
The workshop had five major technical presentations bordering on Strategic Leadership and Influencing, Shrinking Civic Space for non-State Actors and Inclusiveness in Fiscal Processes, Monitoring and Evaluation Methods and Approaches, Bridge Building and Networking and Inter-locking in the fight against corruption. The presentations were followed by plenary discussions and group work.
ISSUES OF CONCERN/OBSERVATIONS:
Following deliberations on the workshop themes, the participants observed the following as issues of concern;
· That even though the budgeting process in Nigeria is widening and becoming more inclusive, CSOs involvement is still inadequate due to low capacity of CBOs to engage the process, as well as poor access to budget and project information.
· The key role of CSOs includes; strategic influencing, budget analysis, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, but they are largely unable to perform these roles, due to continued shrinking of the civic space.
· Some public institutions that have the mandate to ensure inclusivity and compliance to the Fiscal Responsibility Act have not performed optimally, especially, in making budget/project information available, there by practically facilitating the non-inclusion of CSOs, who need the information to play their role as watchdogs for society.
· The shrinking space is a major challenge to CSOs Budget Monitoring Networks, in that the budget making process rarely accommodates the opinions of the Citizens, people with disabilities, and vulnerable groups.
· Corruption has eaten deep into budget processes that the pattern of public finance management by government over the years has concentrated wealth in the hands of few individuals.
· Over dependence of some CSOs on external funding to monitor budget and projects poses a challenge for sustainability, given the reality that donor funding space is equally shrinking along with dwindling democratic values at most countries, particularly in Africa.
From the foregoing, the participants hereby recommend as follows:
· CSOs engage in budget monitoring should enhance their capacity through trainings, studies, researches, information and lessons sharing and institutional exchange programmes.
· To keep demanding relevant information, using government laid channels and other instruments like the Freedom of Information Act.
· CSOs should go beyond the challenges of the shrinking space, mobilize themselves into networks for continued strategic influencing, budget analysis, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation.
· CSOs should articulate the needs and inputs of women, persons with disabilities, youths, children and other vulnerable groups.
· Work with anti-corruption institutions and agencies, by making evidenced based information available and involve ACAs in their campaigns.
· CSOs should creatively look for local and alternative sources of funding for their budget/project monitoring and other activities.
· Institutions should facilitate and make budget and project information accessible to enable CSOs perform independent monitoring and evaluation to enhance transparency and accountability, which will make (any) government even more popular.
· Accommodate the inputs of women, persons with disabilities, youths, children and other vulnerable groups on fiscal conceptualization, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
· Government should strengthen the anti-corruption institutions and ensure punitive measures against convicted corrupt officials.
Participants commended NDEBUMOG and OXFAM for the opportunity to enhance their capacity in the budget monitoring and basic economic knowledge.
Dr. George-Hill Anthony-CEO, Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group
Celestine Okwudili Odo-Oxfam Nigeria
Emeka Ngene-Actionaid Nigeria
Nkiru Nwobodo-Economic Empowerment and Development Initiative (EEDI), Enugu
Oluwapelumi Adeigbe-Sister’s Nest, Lagos State