Financial analysts have been called upon to monitor annual budgets, in order to enhance economic growth and development. The Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Financial Journalism, (CFJ), Mr. Ray Echebiri said this, at the workshop on, ‘Budget monitoring and reporting for financial analysts, organised by West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), in collaboration with CFJ, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), in Abuja. According to him, tracking and monitoring the budget requires obtaining important documents, which include the proposed budget as well as the approved document from the National Assembly”.
He said, “After getting these useful documents, we must examine the projects listed in the budget, funds allocated for such projects, in order to ensure efficient monitoring and implementation of these projects. To improve on the monitoring techniques, the media should work in synergy with the Civil Society group, financial experts, financial analysts and other advocacy groups to enlighten the public on the budgeting process and how the budget affects them. In doing this, it is imperative for analysts and Journalists to widen their scope in getting vital details of revenue accruing to government from Customs duties, taxes and other revenue generating agencies of government. We must always do a comparative analysis on budget documents from the Presidency and what comes out of the National Assembly. This will enable analysts to know what accounts for the differences in revenue figures of various ministries and projects listed in the budget”. He added, “People participation is quite imperative , because the people know what their immediate needs are, where important projects should be sited to meet the yearnings of the masses. Budget tracking must be done as a chain, because the budget is often made to suit the Medium Term Expenditure framework of government to fast track economic growth and development. We need to also use the local media like radio and television to enlighten the people, especially those in the rural communities on budgeting process. For example, the use of short radio and television documentaries can be very effective in this aspect. The message passed must be simple to understand, free from ambiguity and clumsy expressions. We have a responsibility to ask the Senators and other members representing various constituencies and localities of their duty in implementing the budget at different levels. This implies having regular discussions with our legislators on the budget and their role to ensure effective implementation, in order to achieve its intended purposeJournalists and analysts must also improve their competence in getting credible information on the budget. We can use tools such as the constitution, fiscal responsibility Act, public procurement Act and the Free of Information Act, which empower us legally as experts to track, monitor and evaluate the budget to ensure transparency and accountability. Financial analysts and journalists must regularly update their knowledge and upscale their competencies to enable them discharge their professional duties in this regard. We owe ourselves and the public this sacred duty. Local governments get 20.60 percent of revenue in the budget while the States get 26.72, so we must monitor these sub-nationals to ensure accountability.” In his remarks, the Director General of WAIFEM, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, represented by Prof. Omotor Douglasson, said, “Budget monitoring is one of the key aspects of programme budget approach aims at reinforcing accountability of governments for services delivered during a budget period. Budget monitoring compares actual income, expenditure or cash flow against projected income, expenditure or cash flow, while Budget reporting safeguards the funds and ensures that they are spent as authorised. During budget preparation and negotiation processes, budget units are requested to define service delivery (outputs) targets they plan to achieve with allocated funds. This makes it vital to monitor and report whether the budget was spent in accordance with appropriation or whether the services have been delivered at agreed level. An essential part of monitoring and reporting of the budget is the feed-back to decision-making process in government. It is therefore, important that findings and recommendations about budget performance be reported in a timely and readily accessible form, in order to have positive impact on government activities. For this purpose, analysts within Budget Policy Reform Units and the fourth estate are thus challenged to build competencies and upscale their capacity in budget monitoring and reporting, which is essentially, to set overall performance monitoring and guidelines on behalf of the populace. This includes ensuring that results of the performance assessments are fed back into the decision-making process. The objective of the course is to demystify the world of budgeting and provide participants with techniques and confidence to monitor and report the budget effectively”. The programme, which drew participants from the academia, media, central banks within the West African sub-region covered topics on the structure of national economy, challenges that the national economy faces, economic cycles and national economies, managing economic challenges, economic growth and why it matters, budget monitoring, reporting the budget, best practices in budget reporting, key skills for effective monitoring of the budget, monitoring budget of sub-national governments, trading among ECOWAS countries, major economic terms and their meaning.