by Usman Alabi
That is exactly the question one of our followers on twitter asked, he wanted to know if the Lagos State budget is a state secret.
What more can we say, apparently the answer is yes. The Lagos state budget cannot be found on the government official website, even the previous years’ budget is not on the site.
The Lagos Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget has a budget Documents portal on the website, a click on the portal would reveal six categories which are Abridged Budget, Approved Budget, MTSS Document, LBS Publication and Citizens ‘Guide Approved Budget. The Abridged budget only contains a shortened version of the 2016 budget which is not detailed.
The approved budget categories only contains the years without any budget document. Hence, the Lagos state government website does not have the budgetary details of the fiscal year, justifying our conclusion that the budget is perhaps a state secret.
It is an irony that in a country where there is a supposed freedom of information, people cannot access the details of government activities especially when it comes to fiscal spending.
The Lagos state governor has on many occasions declared that he wants to run an all inclusive government, but this is perhaps nothing but a mirage if he cannot trust the people with the details of his spending. The reason is that the best and only way the government can be accountable to the people is when they (people) have the parameter to determine accountability.
It is not in the place of the government to determine or to assert that it is accountable, it is the people that determines or can tell whether a government is accountable or not. If the government wants to be accountable, then it must run an open administration or what we call an open government system, where the details of the day to day activities of the government can be accessed by the people, it is then that such government can be said to be accountable.
Opening the budget puts the government on their toes, it makes the people feel involved and increase their level of political engagement. When the details of the budget are carefully spelt out, the people can then match every project with the amount slated for it in the budget, thus making it easier for them to track government spending and ensure that projects planned for are actually executed.
Hence if Governor Ambode is interested in running an all inclusive government, he must also be ready to give the people the opportunity to participate, and if they must participate, they must be equipped with relevant information to facilitate an informed engagement, and that can only happen if they have unrestrained access to government data and spending. Access to the budget is not a privilege, it is a right.
So, how long would the Lagos state government continue to keep the budget a secret? The State is a mega city and has the 5th largest economy in Africa, as it aims at becoming an economic giant in Africa, it should also consider transparency and accountability which are core characteristics of a democracy.
We urge the Lagos State government to as a matter of urgency make public the details of the 2017 budget, not in an abridged version but in full with all the details so as to encourage proper engagement and an all inclusive government.
The goal of YMonitor is to strengthen accountability in government and citizen’s engagement, and this can only be possible when the government do not consider issues such as the budget a state secret.