The essence of citizens’ engagement in a town hall meeting or forum where representatives of the general public, members of Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs), traditional/religious leaders, women and youths, trade and artisans, print and electronic organizations as well as various associations participate with other stakeholders to discuss projects/activities that need to be reflected in the annual budget and serve public interest is currently the world best practice.
The Gombe State Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in collaboration with Budget, Planning and Development Partner Co-ordination Office, on November 4, 2021 organised a Town Hall Meeting with citizens on the 2022 budget at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, in the state capital.
Speaking at the occasion, the state Governor, Alhaji Muhammadu Yahaya bemoaned the non-completion of the multi billion International Conference Centre by former Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo’ which incidentally has been converted to Computer Training Centre by his administration.
According to Governor Yahaya, his administration needed more than N500m to furnish and equip the centre in spite of the huge sums already spent on the building. He criticised the former governor for some of his ‘white elephant’ projects involving billions of naira.
He noted that “if the International Conference Centre was taken through scrutiny in an event as this, there wouldn’t have been the need for it. Inuwa said, “People said we did not efficiently utilize the N5bn for building the International Conference Centre. To me it is a waste. The entire North East political zone is facing security challenges and you built a conference facility which nobody cares to utilise because of insecurity challenges”.
“People are saying the money was not properly utilized and by the time the former government left in 2019, a huge contract for supply and furnishing of the centre was left uncompleted. We need the sum of N500m to equip and put the place to use. I doubt if this house will allow N500m to be wasted rather than utilizing it on road construction, sinking boreholes and building schools.”, he said.
Justifying the recent application for N53.7 billion loans, he said the proceeds will help his government to inaugurate and complete the State Secretariat, even as the Muhammadu Buhari Industrial Park will provide jobs to the teeming population and generate revenue.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development, Alhaji Muhammadu Gambo Magaji said that “budgets are tools that governments employ to drive economic policies, aimed at uplifting underprivileged sections of the society, mitigating disparity, facilitating financial inclusion, provide infrastructure, proper educational, health and housing facilities”.
He stated that, “this underscores the utmost importance government attached to the preparation, implementation and monitoring of a well planned budget”. “No wonder it is provided in the constitution that before end of any financial year, the governor must present the budget for preceding year to the State House of Assembly for consideration”,
Magaji assured that the State Government will pay closer attention to inputs made in the meeting with a view to ensuring that what people want goes into the 2022 budget estimate.
Special Adviser to Governor on Budget, Planning and Development Partner Coordination, Dr.Ishiyaku M.Mohmmed disclosed that the World Bank recently came up with a programme called ‘States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme for Result’.
In the programme, states can win grants from the Federal Government if they meet certain criteria and one of such is to fulfill ‘Disbursement Linked Indicator number 2’ which is increased openness and citizens engagement in the budget process.