By Yusuf Ishaku Goje
Kaduna state has continued to capture the limelight for many positive and negative reasons. Prominent among the reasons is that the state government has carried out a number of reform initiatives – that by design is seeking to institutionalize fiscal transparency, accountability and citizens’ engagement. Also, being the first subnational to sign into the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Nigeria, global attention has understandably been on the state.
Whether or not these headline-grabbing fiscal transparency and accountability reform initiatives are translating to improved quality of public services and living standard of the people is a debate still raging on among stakeholders. Albeit, monitoring and evaluating government’s performance in achieving the expected target outcomes, as captured in the result framework of the State Development Plan (SDP), will largely be dependent on the timely availability, accessibility and usability of official financial documents. Consequently, this is what will enable citizens to effectively hold the government to account, especially value for money.
In this direction, the introduction of the World Bank’s supported State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (SFTAS) program-for-results has brought with it a ray of hope. The SFTAS program focuses on strengthening the fiscal sustainability, transparency and accountability of Nigerian states. The government program is made up of the Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) actions to be implemented by state governments; and Nigerian OGP National Action Plan (NAP) actions at the state-level.
Furthermore, it has two key components of performance-based financing for state governments, which will be implemented using the Program for Results (PforR) instrument – with a resource envelope of US$700 million; and technical assistance (TA) for states and selected national-level institutions, with resource envelope of US$50 million, which will be implemented using the Investment Project Financing (IPF) instrument.
Recently, state officials and civil society actors drawn from the North-West geo-political zone of the country converged in Abuja for a one-day National Workshop on Citizens Accountability Report (CAR) Template under the SFTAS program. This was put together to support states in meeting the SFTAS Disbursement Linked Indicator 2 (DLI II) in 2021. The expected results being that the Citizens Accountability Report based on audited financial statements/reports is to be published online for Fiscal Year 2020 no later than the end of September 2021.
The workshop, supported by Nigeria Open Government Partnership (OGP) Secretariat and Partnership Engage Reform & Learn (FCDO/PERL), is a follow-up activity to the progress made in the areas of availability of citizens’ versions of the budget and citizens inputs framework under the SFTAS program. The Citizens Accountability Report template is the final phase that has an incentive of US$300,000, to be granted to states that meet up with the disbursement linked indicator.
The Citizen’s Accountability Reporting template has nine sections and an executive summary. They are: Budget Outturn (budgeted versus actual); Revenue Outturn; Expenditure Outturn (budgeted versus actual); Audit Findings; Audited Financial Statement; Top Sectoral Allocations; Top Value Projects; Citizens Nominated Projects – Implementation Status Report; and Public Consultations with citizens presenting the annual financial statements.
Thanks to the SFTAS program, citizens will not only have access to documents hitherto out of their reach, but now have the State Audited Financial Statement presented in a manner that is user-friendly. Thereby improving the quality of citizens engagement and empowering citizens to ask the right questions and effectively hold the government accountable.
This is expected to be a one stop-shop for information on how the State government is utilizing our collective financial resources; particularly now that states like Kaduna are under heavy debt burden. It is imperative for citizens to take advantage of the Citizens’ Accountability Reporting template to hold the government accountable to ensure quality and value for money in public service delivery.
As the SFTAS program is winding down, it is obligatory for residents of the state, particularly civil society organizations, to take ownership of the program. It will go a long way in ensuring that the gains recorded on fiscal transparency and accountability is not only sustained but advanced to the desired level. This is in recognition of the fact that access to fiscal information in itself is not power, but rather the effective utilization of it to demand for accountability is what will bring about the desired change in Kaduna state.