From Desmond Mgboh, Kano

A few weeks ago, the ancient city of Kano, was alive as it hosted a workshop organized by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC). It was intended to sensitize critical stakeholders in the North West to buy into the fiscal responsibility initiative as stated by the law.

With the theme, “Fiscal Responsibility, Transparency and Sustainable Development,” the workshop attracted stakeholders, both state and non-state actors. Participants included commissioners of finance; budget and planning and of local government affairs.

Others were accountants-general, representatives from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), Auditor General of the Federation, Budget Office of the Federation, EFCC and ICPC among others.

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje reiterated commitment to immediately set in motion the process of passing the Fiscal Responsibility Law and subsequently establish a commission.

Chairman of FRC, Victor Muruako, emphasized the need for states to adopt the Fiscal responsibility initiative, holding that “fiscal rectitude in the sub-national entities is critical for speedy economic recovery and macro-economic stability.”

Papers presented covered such topics like “The Imperative of Fiscal Transparency and Accountability in Sustainable Development of Nigeria’s 36 States”, “Sub-Nationals and the Fiscal Responsibility Act: Mainstreaming for Sustainable National Development” and “Strengthening Fiscal Transparency and Accountability Through the FRA, 2007.”

The workshop observed that the present Fiscal Responsibility Act did not stipulate appropriate sanctions/punishments for offenders: “This undermined the efforts to compel compliance and end the current impunity with which its provisions were flouted.”

It also observed that although the publication of daily payment report by the OAGF has recorded significant compliance since inception, it appeared that most MDAs have not been forthcoming with up-to-date information of their daily financial transactions on the Open Treasury Portal as required and in a format that would enable ordinary citizens understand what is displayed.

It said: “There is no information on quarterly financial statements by MDAs, and quarterly consolidated financial statement by the Federal Government. This negates the provision of the transparency policy, which states that the unaudited financial statements should be made public within a month of the end of the quarter.”

The workshop established that the time limits imposed for the disclosure of financial records or publication of audited financial statements are routinely ignored or flouted: “This partly explains the inability of government to take necessary and timely fiscal decisions and effectively communicate to the people.”

It said efforts should be geared towards getting the National Assembly to expeditiously conclude the process of amending the F.R.A, 2007 to include providing for clear offences and penalties as well as prescribing appropriate sanctions for violations of the Act.

In a communiqué, Zailani Muhammed Ahmed, Director Administration and Human Resources, Oke Epia, Executive Director, FRC Order Paper Nigeria, the workshop suggested that states within the region that are yet to domesticate the Fiscal Responsibility Law should domesticate the laws, establish the commissions and make them functional.

It was also agreed that states that have domesticated the law should start implementing and make the commissions functional and effective.

Other recommendations included that the independence of all the relevant fiscal responsibility agencies and commissions should be guaranteed in the enabling laws to shield them from political interference.

The stakeholders also agreed that towards attainment fiscal stability and sustainability, states should begin to leverage the untapped assets in their domains by embracing the Federal Government’s zero oil plan; one state, one product economic approach.

They also suggested that states and local governments should look towards bio-economy and digital economy to boost their revenue profiles. It was, however, agreed that such investments must be safeguarded with robust fiscal transparency and accountability laws.

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Source: news