KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE LAUNCH OF TRACKA REPORT ON 2017 CONSTITUENCY PROJECTS ON 14TH NOVEMBER 2018.
Let me thank BudgIT for inviting me to give the keynote address at the launch of Tracka report on 2017 Constituency projects. I wish to commend BudgIT for the professionalism and visibility that it has given to budget work and work of the third sector in Nigeria.
In this key note address, I make five main arguments:
- Although the primary purpose of government is the welfare and security of the people, many governments across the world have been captured by the elite for their own benefit and there is the need for citizens voice and action to hold government to account.
- The development of Nigeria has stagnated for many reasons including poor leadership, irresponsible followership, corruption and emasculation of the voice of citizens.
- There are many reasons to hold government to account so that plans, policies and budgets will deliver services to citizens.
- Depsite the best efforts of previous and present governments, corruption has remained endemic and widespread in Nigeria because of lack of comprehensive approach to the fight against corruption addressing system (prevention), sanction (punishment) and society (with citizens active voice and action).
- The initiative by BudgIT in developing the tool of Tracka is commendable and there is the necessity for citizens, community based organisations, religious groups, ethnic groups and professional organisations to join BudgIT in promoting citizen inclusion and holding government to account.
The primary purpose of government is the welfare and the security of the people. Ultimately, the plans, policies, programmes and budget of government should lead to political, social, economic, technological and cultural development of the country. But in reality, for a variety of reasons, some governments serve purposes that are inimical to citizens and society. This is why it is imperative to have tools and mechanisms to hold government accountable.
In this keynote address, we argue that for the development of Nigeria, there is the need for the citizens to hold government to account and fight against corruption. But first, we look at the issue of development of Nigeria and accountability.
- DEVELOPMENT OF NIGERIA
The challenge of development is arguably one of the greatest challenges that has dominated world history. Human beings have always been concerned about how to improve their condition of living and better confront the forces of nature and the environment. Over the years, a lot of progress has been made on how to deal with the challenges of development and improve the standard and condition of living of human beings.
It has been well established that every society has the capacity to develop and all societies strive for development. But the concept of development is a very controversial one. We have argued elsewhere that the definitions and interpretations of development are influenced by history, discipline, ideological orientation and training.[i] Chambers defines development as “good change”.[ii] This definition envisages that development is synonymous with progress. This progress should entail an all-encompassing improvement, a process that builds on itself and involve both individuals and social change.[iii] Kamghampati argues that development requires growth and structural change, some measure of distributive equity, modernization in social and cultural attitudes, a degree of political transformation and stability, an improvement in health and education so that population growth stabilizes, and an increase in urban living and employment.[iv] In our view, development always involves change that affects various facets of life including economic, social and political spheres. Sustainable development means that development is achieved without excess environmental degradation, in a way that both protects the rights and opportunities of coming generations and contributes to compatible approaches.[v]
The past five decades have witnessed monumental changes in the world. Global economic wealth has increased sevenfold and average incomes have tripled.[vi] Yet, poverty has increased to record high levels. The major problem is that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few people while majority of the people live in abject poverty. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 1998 report documented that the three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined Gross Domestic Product of the 48 least developed countries. In 2014, eighty five richest people in the world had the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.4 billion people). By 2015, 80 richest people have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent. In the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, income inequality is at its highest level in the last fifty years. The average income of the richest 10 percent of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10 percent.[vii] It has been documented that the drivers of inequalities include globalization, skilled biased technological change and changes in countries policy approaches (ascendancy of neo-liberalism).
Over the years, various scholars, organizations and institutions have documented the challenges of development in Nigeria. [viii] The challenges include among other things poor leadership; bad followership; poor strategy for development; lack of capable and effective state and bureaucracy; lack of focus on sectors that will improve the condition of living of citizens such as education, health, agriculture and the building of infrastructure; corruption; undeveloped, irresponsible and parasitic private sector; weak civil society; emasculated labour and student movement and poor execution of policies and programmes. As a matter of fact, the lived experiences of many Nigerians have turned them to experts on the challenges of Development in Nigeria.
Government have great roles to play in planning for and accelerating the development process. In Nigeria, it has been documented that right from the colonial period, development planning was viewed as a major strategy for achieving economic development and social progress, particularly, in the spheres of socio-economic infrastructures, industralisation, modernization, high rates of economic growth, poverty reduction, and significant improvements in living standards.[ix] Three plans featured in the pre-independence era for the periods 1946-1956, 1951-1955 and 1955-1962. Over the 1962-1995 period, three major phases in the planning experience emerged, namely, the fixed medium-term planning phase (1962-1985), policy oriented planning (1986-1988), and three year rolling plan phase (1990 till date). [x] Scholars have pointed out that the golden period of planning on the African continent, 1960s and 1970s, could not be sustained from the 1980s because of two major factors: failure of development planning to meet the high expectations of rapid growth and development; and the resurgence of liberalism and the implementation of short-term stabilization and structural adjustment programmes which are predicated on liberalization and deregulation. Meanwhile, these programmes that substituted for national development plans are counter plans which have failed to solve Africa’s myriad of economic problems.[xi] This is why some scholars have referred to the 1980s and 1990s as the “lost development decades” for Africa.[xii]
The challenge is that since return to civil rule in 1999, there has been a lot of sporadic and adhoc planning without adherence to long term planning. The National Economic Empowerment and National Development Strategy (NEEDS) and the Seven Point Agenda was abandoned after a few years. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is a medium-term plan. It is worse at the sub-national levels. Between 2004 and 2007, all the states developed the State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (SEEDS). But since 2007, most state governments do not have overarching development strategies. In addition, there is no systematic planning framework for the country that ensures adequate data and research, good information system, monitoring and evaluation and tracking of results. The end result is abandonment of projects, poor plan implementation and poor service delivery.
Scholars are in agreement that strategies and policies are fundamental to progress and development of countries. But many Ministries, Departments and Agencies in Nigeria are without strategic plans. For many of them, policies have not been reviewed for over a decade. Even the implementation of the policies have been characterized by discontinuity, reversals and somersaults. Meanwhile, there is no process or criteria or mechanism for filtering policy ideas in the country to capture citizens voices. Policy proposals are often not evidence based because ideas that enter into the policy agenda are based on the private interest behind them. The result is that the policy ideas are not strategic and implementation do not give the desired result leading to wastage of resources due to duplication and failed programmes and projects.
Accountability places a responsibility on government to acquire the necessary ability to perform; the obligation to provide information, explanations and/or justifications and the necessity to absorb the consequences of unaccountable actions including disciplinary measures. The UNDP has delineated some principles of accountability. [xiii] We can distinguish between four forms of accountability: political accountability, administrative accountability, professional accountability and democratic accountability. Political accountability requires government to act following the political and programmatic provisions adopted by the government. In practice, these positions are usually encapsulated in the annual budgets, declarations and commitments. Political accountability involves vertical accountability where officials are supervised and controlled by higher offices in accordance with the institutions’ hierarchy; and horizontal accountability which is the accountability of the executive to the legislature. Similarly, administrative accountability involves vertical accountability where inferior administrative positions account to superior positions through a wide set of internal mechanisms of control and supervision including inspectorates, audits etc; and horizontal accountability where administrative positions are accountable to citizens and oversight bodies including ombudsman. In addition, administrative accountability involves a full subject of public officials and administrative units to a wide set of constitutional, legal and administrative rules and procedures that govern tightly their performance. Professional accountability refers to the existence of a set of norms and practices of a technical and professional nature that governs the behaviour and performance of members of a certain profession. Democratic accountability is a direct relation between government and civil society where civil society takes active role in ensuring accountability through popular participation, evaluation of government project and activities.
- HOLDING GOVERNMENT TO ACCOUNT
There are many reasons for holding government to account. First and foremost, holding government to account will promote accountability and transparency and prevent corruption. This is very important in a country like Nigeria where the level of corruption is very high. The problem of corruption is as old as society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our times leading to underdevelopment and poor service delivery. Corruption has a lot of negative consequences on every sphere of societal development whether social, economic or political. Corruption not only leads to poor service delivery but loss of lives. Corruption is pervasive in Nigeria with serious negative consequences. Despite the plethora of legislations and agencies fighting corruption in the country, corruption has remained widespread and pervasive because of failure to utilize universally accepted and tested strategies; disconnect between posturing of leaders and their conduct; lack of concrete sustainable anti-corruption programming and failure to locate the anti-corruption struggle within a broader struggle to transform society. This is why it is necessary to develop tools and mechanisms to hold government accountable.
Secondly, mechanisms and tools will help to prevent abuse of office and power. The long years of military rule in Nigeria entrenched executive lawlessness and abuse of power. There is therefore the need for mechanisms and tools to hold government accountable and prevent the abuse of power. Finally, it is necessary to have mechanisms and tools to hold government accountable in order for citizens to make demand on government. Government is meant to meet the wishes and aspiration of the people. Tools can help to make demand on government.
There are several tools which can be used to hold government to account. We will discuss three categories of them which can be used by legislators, citizens or through the creation of independent commissions.
- Parliamentary Oversight: The primary roles of the legislator are those of legislation, oversight and representation. The legislator plays oversight role in budget implementation. This can be done through project visits to assess budget release, compliance with procurement procedures and assessment of work done. Parliament has powers to conduct investigations, issue summons and warrant to compel attendance (sections 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution
- Citizens Oversight/Social Accountability: Citizens can utilize different tools to hold government to account. The tools include:
- Social Audit: community based auditing mechanism to promote greater accountability and transparency.
- Budget Analysis: The word analysis is derived from a Greek word which means to ‘decompose” or “breakdown” or “separate” a whole into its component parts. Budget Analysis therefore seeks to break down the budgets to examine its component parts from different angles: issues, sectors, activities, groups etc. Consequently there are different approaches to budget analysis. Issue based analysis analyses budgets by looking at different issues such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, women’s rights and the level of participation of citizens in the budgetary process. Sectoral analysis looks at different sectors in the economy such as Health, Education, Housing and Agriculture. Historical analysis is based on a trend analysis of the budget over a period of time. Programme/ Activity analysis focuses on specific activities like HIV/AIDS and Health services (ARVs, VCCT Centres), campaigns, research and capacity building. Group analysis focuses on certain groups of persons such as women, children and PLWHAs. Revenue analysis is focused on the sources of revenue to the government and the relative contribution of the revenue sources including donors. Macro-economic analysis focuses on fiscal issues, deficit, debt, inflation, growth and employment. Finally rights based analysis takes the rights of citizens as the point of departure and looks at how the state is able to meet its obligations to citizens. The rights based approach therefore considers Socio – Economic rights (work, education, health, housing); Civil and Political Rights (access to court, freedom from discrimination, right to life) and Development Rights (ODA Flows and participation in governance).
Bartle defines monitoring as “the regular observation and recording of activities taking place in a project or programme. It is a process of routinely gathering information on all aspects of the project.”[xiv] Budget monitoring is therefore a regular process of observation of the entire budget process to see if the objectives of the budget are being met. The points to consider in budget monitoring include:
- What are the budget estimates for that particular year or term?
- Adequacy: How much is budgeted? Is it enough?
- What are we spending on generally in a social sector (compare with other sectors or line items eg, Presidency or Defence)?
- What are spending on a particular sector or interventions specifically?
- Priority: How does the budget for this purpose compare to resources spent in other areas?
- Progress: Is government’s response on this issue improving? Are there envisaged increases in Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)?
- Process: Is there transparency in the allocation of funds and expenditure? Accessibility of data?
Further Points to Consider….
- Allocative Efficiency: Are the right programmes or mix of interventions being funded to have the largest impact?
- Operational Efficiency: Is there value for money? Any wastage?
- Outputs: Is the budget meeting its target goals/ outputs?
- Outcome: What impact has the budget had on the lives of the citizens and the economy?
- Equity: Are resources being allocated fairly? Targeted vulnerable groups.
- Report card: are used to assess institutions and public officers on how far they have been able to fulfill their mandate.
- Technology: Increasingly, technology can be used to hold government to account. In recent times, the new media especially the sms, e-mails, facebook, twitter etc have become powerful tools not only for holding government to account but for mobilization and change.
- Public interest litigation: Citizens and organizations can take legal action against government agencies in interest of the public.
- Protest/ Demonstration: When all other advocacy and campaign methods fail, protest and demonstration can be used to hold government to account. This tool is very useful in a country like Nigeria where the ruling class can ignore all evidence-based advocacy and campaigns.
3. Independent Commission: It has been documented that in Africa, and largely across the globe, interest groups and citizens now hold strong views that constitution of states must entrench certain fundamental principles that allow for the creation, existence, and functioning of independent oversight agencies that can safeguard the interests of people, mediate upon the excesses of governments, and help to enforce laws.[xv] Examples of such institutions include Independent electoral bodies, National Human Rights Commission and Police Service Commission.
In order to institutionalize probity and accountability in any society, it is necessary to have competent officials with vision and character while addressing corruption and building an integrity system.
- FIGHTING CORRUPTION
It is important to point out that corruption is as old as society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people.[xvi] It is necessary to understand the explanations for the causes of corruption in order to be able to design a mechanism to fight corruption. Several explanations have been given to explain the causes of corruption:
- Robert Klitgaard formula: Corruption=(Monopoly + Discretion) –(Accountability + Integrity + Transparency). This formula indicates that wherever there is monopoly and discretion combined with lack of accountability, integrity and transparency, corruption will thrive.
- People engage in corruption when the benefit exceeds the utility they can get by using their time differently and there is little or no risk of detection and penalty.
- The Fraud Triangle explanation: An individual becomes corrupt when there is perceived pressure combined with opportunity to commit corruptible transaction and the perpetuator can justify it.
From the above, it is clear that the causes of corruption is multifactorial. Therefore, fighting corruption has to be comprehensive ranging from prevention, education and enforcement (sanction):
- Addressing corruption: A framework for addressing corruption is to tackle the issues in the triangle namely pressure, opportunity and rationalisation.
- Addressing Motivation: The need for implementation of code of ethics, punish those who do wrong, good conditions of service and good environment of work.
- Addressing Opportunity: To create systems, mechanisms and procedure that make corruptible transactions difficult. This will include financial guidelines, internal controls, due process and whistle blowers. All these help to increase the capability of the organisation to prevent corruption.
- Addressing rationalisation: through education and re-orientation.
- Instituting an Integrity System: Integrity plan is meant to address the causes of corruption and put in place a system that can reduce or minimize corruption through prevention, detection and sanction. The starting point in instituting an integrity system is to conduct a corruption risk assessment. Corruption risk assessment will identify key corruption and fraud related risks in the institution. [xvii] It will identify the political factors influencing integrity; the economic factors influencing integrity; the social factors affecting integrity; the technological factors affecting integrity and the legal factors influencing integrity in the institution. Based on the assessment, recommendations will be made to improve integrity of the institution.
- Enforcement of anti-corruption legislation and punishing those involved in corruptible transactions.
- THE PLACE OF TRACKA
Tracka, an arm of BudgIT addresses critical issues surrounding social and economic development in Nigeria including the necessity of citizens inclusion in development projects. In 2017, Tracka deployed 24 Project Tracking Officers (PTOs) across 20 states in the federation, visited 617 communities across 374 LGAs to sensitize residents on the 2017 budgeting provisions situated in their communities; and empowered them to monitor the execution of the projects while demanding accountability.
In the 2017 Tracka report, 1, 313 projects were tracked. Of these, 488 have been completed, 213 are ongoing, 381 have not started while 15 are abandoned. The team reached over 450,000 citizens through 246 town hall meetings. Tracka also used online platforms with over 300,000 followers on social media. The 2017 Tracka report revealed poor co-ordination of the projects underscoring the necessity to demand for government accountability.
It is important to note that the team established a Community Champion Initiative aimed at increasing the number of active citizens that are speaking up and demanding accountability for budgeted projects planned to develop their communities.
Government has a primary responsibility to provide for the welfare and security of its citizens. But across the world, governments are being captured by the elite. There is therefore a necessity to amplify citizens voices and actions to hold government to account. It is against this background that the BudgIT initiative of Tracka is worthy of commendation and emulation.
Let me end this keynote address by calling on citizens, communities, development associations, religious groups, age grade associations, town unions and professional groups across Nigeria to adopt the BudgIT initiative and set up Community Champions to speak for their communities and demand accountability from government. It is clear to us that by the nature and character of politics in Nigeria, Politicians will not on their own volition dedicate all resources for the delivery of goods and services to citizens. It is voice and action of citizens that can hold them to account.
We should all become Champions of our communities.
[i] Igbuzor, O (2005), Perspectives on Democracy and Development. Lagos, Joe-Tolalu & Associates.
[ii] Chambers, R (1997), Whose Reality Counts? Putting the First Last. London, Intermediate Technology Publication.
[iii] Thomas, A (2000), “Meanings and Views of Development” in Allen T and Thomas A (Eds), Poverty and Development in the 21st Century. UK, Oxford University Press.
[iv] Kambhampati, U. S. (2004), Development and the Developing World. UK, Polity Press.
[v] Dalal-Clayton, B and Bass, S (Ed)(2002), Sustainable Development Strategies: A Resource Book. London, OECD and UNDP
[vi] Watkins, Kevin (2000), The Oxfam Poverty Report. An Oxfam Publication
[viii] Igbuzor, O (2009), Challenges of Development in Nigeria. Lagos, Robitos Alliance Publishers Ltd; National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS)(2004). Abuja, National Planning Commission and Nigeria Vision 20:2020 Economic Transformation Blueprint. Abuja, National Planning Commission.
[ix] Obadan, M. I. (2003), National Development Planning and Budgeting in Nigeria: Some Pertinent Issues. Lagos, Broadway Press Limited.
[x] Obadan, M. I. ibid
[xi] Obadan, M. I. Ibid
[xii] Cheru, F. (2002), African Renaissance: Roadmaps to the Challenge of Globalisation. London, Zed Books.
[xiii] The UNDP has delineated eight principles of accountability including Budgetary processes; audited accounts; loans; contract management; financial regulations; disclosure to parliament; auditor General/Ombudsman and central bank functions. (www.undp.org.org.fj/gold/eight_principles.htm)
[xiv] Otive-Igbuzor, E. J.
[xv] Fayemi, K (2003), Entrenching Independent Institutions in the Constitution Making Process-Issues and Options for Consideration in Fayemi, K (Ed), Depeening the Culture of Constitutionalism: Regional Institutions and Constitutional Development in Africa. Lagos, Centre for Democracy and Development.
[xvi] Igbuzor O (2009), “Strategies for Winning the Anti-Corruption War in Nigeria” in Challenges of Development. Lagos, Robitos Alliance Publishers Ltd
[xvii] ICPC, BPP and TUGAR (2014), Report of Corruption Risk Assessment in the Ports Sector in Nigeria.
Otive Igbuzor, PhD
African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD),
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