It is imperative for the FRC to mainstream fiscal transparency and accountability in all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies
The twin issues of transparency and accountability in governance at all levels of government should be the prerequisite for sustainable growth and development. Societies the world over strive to improve the socioeconomic living conditions of their citizens through the provision of basic infrastructure and social services. Each country has its own national objectives clearly defined by its development imperatives.
While societies in the developed world have long overcome developmental challenges and are now concerned with how to deal with international terrorism and cybercrime which threaten international peace and security, developing nations especially in Africa are still battling with infrastructure deficit amidst bad governance, corruption and the emergent security challenges like insurgency, transnational banditry and increasing waves of migration.
At the moment, Nigeria’s political economy is largely characterized by poor revenue base, fiscal indiscipline, huge cost of governance, weak tax policies, misplaced priorities and increasing corruption which stymie development.
While Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources capable of lifting the country out of the present doldrums, the leadership at all levels of government seem to lack focus and direction in mobilising more revenues for the federation from diverse revenue sources. Beside oil revenue, the country is blessed with vast agricultural land suitable for livestock and crop development, large bodies of water for fisheries and abundant solid mineral deposits in all parts of the country.
The Internally Generated Revenues which remains underexploited are as diverse as the natural resources. Because of over-reliance on oil revenues, governments at all levels do not seem to care about taxable revenues even as states have not shown adequate incentives for improved tax collections. Most states tax collections are not yet automated and the meager amounts generated are often frittered away by revenue collectors and their accomplices.
Instead of governments to pursue meaningful, realistic and impactful projects and programmes within the available resources, they busy themselves with building white elephant and capital intensive projects like airports, universities, stadia, flyovers and amusement parks. By the way, most of the states have airport, state university, stadia and flyovers even while similar facilities exist in close proximity. It is common knowledge that some states are yet to fill their quotas in federal universities and other tertiary institutions. Many airports in the country are not commercially viable as very few top government functionaries and fewer businessmen could patronize airlines which is why some states are known to subsidize the airlines to enable them maintain the routes regardless of their non-viability.
State governments are also known to concentrate development in the state capitals leaving the rural areas in utter neglect. Most state governors are obsessed with beautification of the state capital so that media editors, federal government officials and donor and development partners some of who hardly visit the rural areas will be deceived that the governor is really working. State capitals like Abakaliki, Ado-Ekiti, Osun, Gombe, Katsina, Gusau, Yenagoa, Lokoja with low density population need pedestrian bridges more than flyovers. Why would a state build a three star hotel when tourists are not known to flock to the state or build a state-of-the-art stadium when the state cannot even maintain its football club?
High cost of governance particularly in the states is another money guzzler where state governors appoint hundreds of aides in the name of political patronage, maintain state- of-the-art cars for their official convoys with a retinue of state officials always on the entourage at the expense of the state. When state executives come to Abuja which is quite often, they tend to stay at expensive apartments or five star hotels instead of the
Governor’s lodge which is tastefully furnished but left underutilized.
With this kind of scenario, how do you expect such governments to work on developing education, security, health, housing, power, roads and improve food security and job opportunities that would address increasing criminalities in all parts of the country?
There is the need for countries in Africa especially Nigeria which faces numerous security challenges like Boko Haram insurgency, sectarian violence, cattle rustling, kidnapping and banditry to develop viable mechanisms to promote Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability for rapid socioeconomic development.
The Fiscal Responsibility Commission is the body established by law to provide prudent management of the nation’s resources, ensure macroeconomic stability of the national economy and to also enhance greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations within the country’s mid-term fiscal policy framework. To this end, it is imperative for the FRC to mainstream fiscal transparency and accountability in all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies and also mount effective advocacy and mass mobilization campaign in the states to sensitize state governments on the need to domesticate the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
The state governments, on their part, should strive to enthrone fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability in their governance structure so as to improve the credibility of public finance which would open more funding windows including from donor and development partners. State actors must demonstrate good fiscal behaviors in the prudent management of financial resources at their disposal to attract the attention of donor and development partner community. Undertaking drastic tax and fiscal reforms would further strengthen the weak domestic revenue mobilization drive which constantly constrains government spending and undermines the long-term sustainability of public finances.