The Federal Government on Tuesday emphasized the need for effective collaboration of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in ensuring effective implementation of public policies, plans and budgets in Nigeria through involvement in advocacy, monitoring and evaluation.
Acknowledging the potency of the CSOs in such roles at a Situation Room Dialogue on the 2017 Budget in Abuja, the Minister for Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said CSOs could help in advocating reforms to strengthen budgetary control, undertake independent project monitoring as well as collaborate with the Budget Office in Monitoring and Evaluation field work to ascertain whether funds allocated were being used effectively.
The minister said nation building was a process that required the involvement of everybody, pointing out that the role of the CSOs was key, as contractors performed better when they were effectively supervised and monitored.
According to him, effective monitoring would ensure completion of funded projects and achievement of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) objectives as well as Sustainable Development Goals.
Explaining the focus of the 2017 Budget, the Minister said it was based on the ERGP, a medium term recovery and growth plan which reflected government’s strategy to restructure, reset, reposition and diversify the economy for sustained economic growth.
He said the Budget had been designed to deliver economic and social benefits outlined in the ERGP, therefore effective collaboration was key in achieving the developmental objectives of government, which was where the civil society was critical.
The minister assured that government would deepen engagement with the civil society as it was committed to opening government principles and accountable governance.
Addressing specific issues raised at the dialogue, the minister said government’s interest in improving the Health Sector should not be seen only from the N55.61billion allocation in the capital budget but also from the recurrent as expenditure in the sector was largely recurrent.
He said it should also be seen in provisions in other basic infrastructure that support health facilities like technology, roads and power as well as areas that would reduce health risks like water and sanitation.
The 2017 capital budget of N55 billion is almost double the 2016 figure of N28 billion.
This shows the seriousness of government in revamping the Health Sector, he said, adding that government was desirous of stemming the tide of medical tourism by Nigerians in the shortest possible time.
He said government was determined to tackle corruption as that was one of the critical factors that affected project and plan implementation.
He however said focus was not just on fighting corruption but plugging loopholes through initiatives that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the menace to thrive.
The minister said one major thrust of the 2017 Budget was to partner with private and development capital to leverage and catalyze resources for growth.
He stressed that much of the capital provision was directed at projects that were aligned with the core execution priorities of the ERGP.
Senator Udoma emphasized the desire of government to move the country away from a consuming nation to a producing one.
He urged Nigerians to grow what they ate and produce what they consumed.
The Minister of State in the Ministry, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, explained that the problem was not so much with consuming too much, but that we were relying on imports for our consumption.
She asked the CSOs to extend their collaboration to also scanning the states to have a better picture of the total spent on health and education to enable government plan better.
The Executive Director, PLAC and convener Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, observed that Nigeria was a very rich country with vast resources and enormous capital.
According to him, the problem had always been how the resources were gathered and how they were utilized.
These factors, according to him, were part of the reasons the country’s economy went into recession. Whilst acknowledging that things were improving, he was concerned that government officials were not definite about when the economy would get out of the situation.