From Emmanuel Adeyemi,Lokoja
Journalists in the country have been told to take extra efforts to interrogate budget figures, analyze them and follow up in evaluating or monitoring the projects assigned to those figures to ensure probity, equitable distribution and good governance in the country
Journalists were also told to do more thorough investigations especially on the location, quality and quantity of constituency projects carried out by lawmaker in various constituencies of the federation so as to ensure whether they are in conformity with what is in the budget and report any discrepancies
This and many other issues were discussed at a two Day Training workshop on Budget Tracking and Reporting for working Journalists in kogi state Organised by Stallion Times with Support from McArthur Foundation Held on Tuesday and Wednesday at Fen hotels in Lokoja, the state capital
The Project Coordinator of the programme who is also the editor in -chief of Stallion Times , Mr Isiyaku Ahmed while making his presentation said effective reportage on budget issues, the reporter must first know and follow up all the five stages of Budgeting which he listed as the formation stage, approval stage by the legislature, implementation/ procurement stage, monitoring and evaluation stage and the reporting stage of the Auditor- general
Ahmed also said for effective monitoring of budget , Journalists should as a matter of necessity understand the workings of Government machinery,the reason for the conception of the budget, government intentions for her citizens and the need to know the sectoral allocation of resources.
He added that the knowledge of the budget would assist the investigative Journalists to know which materials to source for so as to give their stories infallible proofs.
He called on the media practitioners to collaborate with one another for cross fertilisation of ideas with the intention to expose short comings of budget implementation and hold government accountable
On his own presentation, an expert in budget tracking, Mr Henry Omokhaye called on the media practitioners not to rely on the yearly reeling out of Budget proposals by the Government who usually gives pass mark to previous budget performance,but urged them to dig deeper whether the budget actually accomplish it’s objectives
Omokhaye who spoke comprehensively on how to monitor and track budgets, also spoke about the importance and otherwise of budget supplements and virements and specifically challenged journalists to pay advocacy visits to rural communities to know their areas of needs so that government could capture those needs in the budget
He also urged journalists to make use of the Freedom of Information Act to probe into government activities and report the ills and also to beam more searchlight on constituency projects executed by lawmakers whether they meet up with the standard provided in the budget and report any sharp practice to anti corruption agencies
He also stressed the need for media owners to strengthen institutional and staff Capacity to churn out thoroughly investigative stories that will expose sharp practices in Budget implementation.
Meanwhile, Steve Salawu, who spoke on Budget Mainstreaming in story writing charged Media Men to be ethically minded while reporting Budget to earn public trust in their reportage.
He advise them to always make use of the inverted Pyramid style to anchor their stories ,adding that the stories should be able to create awareness, expose corruption; influence government policies to provoke positive actions for the good of the people.