Stakeholders fear parliamentary workers’ strike will affect Gombe budget preparation

Stakeholders have said the about three weeks strike embarked upon by members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria may affect the budgetary process in Gombe State.

A Public Financial Management Specialist Oluwatosin Oke, said the strike would rub off on the gains of timely budget preparations in the state, adding that the possibility of presenting the fiscal document and getting assent before December 31 is  slim.

According to him, one of the dangers of missing the timeline is that the state won’t be considered for the State Action on Business Enabling Reforms programme, which is a $750m loan cheaper than commercial loans, adding that it would hamper development.

Oke spoke in an interview with our correspondent on Friday,  after a two-day quarterly Public Financial Management roundtable organised by the USAID State2State in collaboration with the Gombe State Fiscal Responsibility Commission.

Oke said, “Another fundamental thing we are beginning to see is some level of relapse in the budgetary system, and for obvious reasons because of the electoral cycle, it took a while before the state could get the cabinet in place, and currently the parliamentary staff are on strike. These two factors are affecting the budget preparation and cycle.

“The state can’t take the proposed budget to the House of Assembly because the staff are on strike and the House of Assembly is required to pass the budget into law and it’s a lacuna that is obvious from this meeting and right now the state has missed its budget calendar. The timeline in the budget calendar has been missed. By now, the budget should be in the House of Assembly for review.”

On the consequences of possibly missing the budget calendar, he said, “It’s against best practices; if you miss the calendar, the implications are much.

“There are many stakeholders that rely on the document to make decisions to plan, investors need to know what the expenditure plan of government is because it is a fiscal document. The State Action on Business Enabling Reforms programme one of the criteria is that the budget must be passed into law and assented by the governor latest by December 31, 2023 for 2024 budget.

“If by November 17, 2023, the Parliamentary Staff Association are on strike and the proposed budget is not ready, if care is not taken, the state will miss the deadline and miss out in the SABER facility. The facility is an offshoot of States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability to sustain of the reforms gained from SFTAS and the Presidential Enabling Business Council and it’s a $750m facility, $730m is meant for performance for results the Disbursement-Linked Indicators as amounts disbursed to states as loans for meeting those indicators, while the $20m part of it is for technical assistance. It’s a three-year programme 2023 to 2025 and each year has it own requirements and targets.”

On his part, State Team Lead, Mohammed Bello-Abubakar, urged the state government to implement relevant reforms, adding that the step would boost the needed development.

“Government should work closely with State2State look at all the recommendations we have given to Ministries, Departments and Agencies and let them implement them. For instance, let the open governance partnership state steering committee be inaugurated, let the Fiscal Responsibility Commission get it board, procurement cadre should be established with the bureau of public procurement,” Bello-Abubakar said.

Also, Chairman Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Abubakar Tata, commended USAID for the far-reaching efforts, urging Ministries, Departments and Agencies to collaborate.

He said,  “Most of the reforms you see going round wouldn’t have been possible without S2S support, encouragement and without their resilience because most of these things are really challenging.

“The Gombe State Fiscal Responsibility Commission is happy that all participants participated fully. We hope to collaborate and hope that other agencies can key in because definitely S2S will leave and we don’t want the process to die after their exit.”

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