Civil society stakeholders on Tuesday urged the Bayelsa government to improve on its budgetary process, describing the state’s performance in the open budget index as “not very nice”.
The civil society groups made the call at a meeting on the Framework for Citizens’ Budgeting in Bayelsa State.
The event was organised by the Social Development Integrated Centre, Social Action, at the Bayelsa Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (BANGOF) in Yenagoa.
The meeting was part of activities under Social Action’s campaign on open budget.
The participants included activists, community and media representatives, among others.
They were unanimous in their observations that the state was still treating its annual budget documents and other fiscal documents as secret documents.
According to them, the situation is contrary to the principles of transparency and accountability which the state government claims to be operating as a governance policy in the last few years.
They stated that the state government needed to deepen its transparency and accountability policy by making its annual budget documents and other fiscal documents accessible and available.
“The status of Bayelsa State on the open budget index is not very nice.
“People don’t need to go to relevant state ministries to request for budgets.
“The point is, anywhere you are, you should surf the web and get the state’s budgets”, Prince Ekpere, Social Action’s Programme Officer, said.
He noted that town hall meetings remained a major platform for legislators to engage their constituents and ensure citizens’ participation in the Bayelsa budget process.
Kuroghobogha Robinson, the Chairman of BANGOF, identified lack of political commitment as one of the factors militating against open budget process in Bayelsa.
He said that the political class was not willing to drive a participatory and open budget process, adding that the situation had hampered issues of good governance and transparency in the state.
The stakeholders, however, noted that the state government had started some components of open budget process.
They, therefore, urged it to “walk the talk” and create a portal where the people could interact with government on its policies and programmes.
They also enjoined citizens to engage ing oversight functions by monitoring development projects executed in their localities and desist from making frivolous demands on contractors so that they would not deliver poor quality jobs.