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Sierra Leone News: Citizens should not be excluded in budgetary process – NMJD

One of the key pillars of justice is accountability, so state institutions should be actually held accountable by its peoples for not involving them in the country’s budgetary process.
Speaking at the launch of the Open Budget Survey 2017 report, by the Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) on Tuesday 30 January at the SLAJ hall, the Executive Director of Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), Abu Brima, said that because of the lack of citizens participation in the budget process has led to decline of several basic amenities.
“The report shows that citizens are less involved and we are ranked 6 out of 100. We are not respected in the budgetary process and obviously the effect is what we see around- poverty.”
And as such, it is said to be reflected “in the dropping and deteriorating education system, health sector, housing, where people are not involved in there development process they don’t take ownership,” he said.
As a result of that, the people do not feel obliged to hold their leaders to account because they don’t even know where and when the budget was prepared. “That is why I always question the Citizens Budget, with regards its ownership. We are far behind Liberia who is making progress. They are a step closer to the global average of 12.”
“The Parliament is the most disappointing institution in the country. Their record is far below average. It is a disgrace that we have an institution that does not hold its executive accountable for its resources,” Brima said.
He cautioned the in-coming government to ensure that they do not muzzle the Parliament by allowing them to do their oversight work independently.
In her statement, Jeanne Kamara, Country Manager of Christian Aid, said that the challenges we face as a country can actually be fixed. “It is all about accountability. So if there is negligence some serious questions needs to be asked around oversight and management of our MDAs,” she said.
She added, “As a country we need to retrace our steps to reflect a bit deeper. Not everything is about money; it is basically mindset poverty. We need do a bit more exploration to as to why things are not being done right.”
She urged the BAN to work on a structured follow-up processes on the issues raised in the survey, “so that we can unravel what this data is telling us and will help in providing good and quality basic services for the citizens,” she said.
Lack of inclusion is not only about having people present and participating from the onset, “it is also looking at the subset of marginalization, so we need to make sure that they are also given a voice.”
The Chair of the launch, Sallieu Turay, from the Non-State Actors Secretariat at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, also emphasized on engagement with various stakeholders by committing them to working together thereby ensuring that the indicators are improved as against the next survey.
“Participating in the policy hearing goes beyond this, citizens should be provided with the leverage to be part of the enactment process, by giving testimonies at Parliament during the budget discussions,” he said.
The OBS recommended that for an effective oversight, the legislature should ensure that they hold debate on budget policy prior to the tabling of the Executive Budget Proposal and approves recommendations for upcoming budget.
Also, the legislative committee should examine and publish reports on in-year budget implementation online, ensure that the supreme audit institution has adequate funding to perform its duties and the country should consider setting up an independent fiscal institution to further strengthen budget oversight.
By Zainab Iyamide Joaque
Thursday February 01, 2018.

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