The National Assembly has identified 15 key reform strategies, including the adoption of a budget calendar which will begin with the submission of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) by the second week in July and end with the President signing the Appropriation Bill into law by third week of December every year.
The strategies which also include provision of laws on development plans by the Federal Government are aimed at easy and timely preparation of the budget and its efficient implementation.
The measures contained in a report submitted to the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki by the Senator Ali Ndume-led technical committee on the reforming the budget process in Nigeria, proposed a budget calendar that will ensure that the President assents to the appropriations law by third week of December while the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) is submitted in the second week of July as the first step in the budget process.
The report to be discussed at plenary by the Senate also include amendments of the relevant sections of the Constitution and extant laws as well as enactment of new laws to improve the country’s budgetary process and align it to international best practices.
Other key recommendations in the report submitted last Thursday include the proposed provision of a legal backing for national development plans, and enactment of organic budget law to fix a realistic budget calendar.
According to the report, the broad strategies aimed at improving the budget process “revolve around reforming laws and frameworks for budget formulation, enactment, and implementation, aligning the budget process to international best practices, strengthening capacities, and institutions for budget formulation and implementation, and strengthening the revenue base for budget implementation.”
Some of the key reform strategies for budget preparation are:
* Alter Section 81(1) of the 1999 Constitution and amend Sections 11 and 14 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) to provide for a fixed and realistic budget calendar by which the President will present the budget to tue National Assembly by the first week of September, considered and passed by by 30th November and assented to by the President by the second week of December.
* Provide legal backing for development plans to serve as basis for the annual budget and ensure continuity of development plans. In this regard, complete the legislative actions initiated for the enactment of laws: “Development Planing Act” and “Project Implementation and Continuity Act”, pending in NASS.
* Amend Sections 13-18 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act to link MTEF with a development plan. Then: have a long term (10-15 years) development plan to be implemented with three year MTEF and Medium-term Sector Strategy (MTSS). National Assembly to support the development plan with a resolution and ensure that the annual budget is linked to it.
* Amend the FRA to enlarge the list of stakeholders to be consulted during the budget preparation process. Then, there should be pre-budget consultation between the legislature and the executive as well as between the executive and the public. And during the budget defense by the MDAs before the Committees, relevant stakeholders should be invited.
* Enact an organic budget law that puts together all laws relating to the budget, including a fixed and realistic budget calendar and a pre-Budget Statement.
* Alter Section 162 of the Constitution recognize saving by the three tiers of government through the Federation Account and provide legal backing for Excess revenue savings to enable he country save revenue windfalls and stabilize government expenditure during fiscal crisis.
* Develop a budget manual. The budget manual should include the procedure for public participation in the budget process and public access to budget information during the budget preparation process.
* Amend Section 19 of FRA to include project documents in the list of budget documentation; amend Part III of the FRA to provide for reporting standards and information sharing arrangements.
* Provide effective timelines for monthly and quarterly financial and non-financial reports. Enact a law to compel all MDAs to upload their budget-related information on a dedicated website.
* Develop and publish criteria or methodology for determining the aggregate expenditure estimate and its allocation to sectors and line items. Expand the information content of the Budget Call Circular to include the modalities for public participation in the budget preparation process.
* Develop the capacity of MDAs and other relevant stakeholders to effectively apply the zero-based budgeting technique or any other performance-based technique that may be adopted.
The committee also urged the National Assembly to strengthen the capacity of its committees in the area of budget scrutiny and appraisal through helping members and the and staff to undergo training and enlightenment programme on the economy and budget appraisal.
Institutions of the National Assembly like the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) and National Assembly Budget Office (NABRO) are also to be equipped to effectively assist committees with sound budget analysis.