Information is power: How more transparent state budgets could bring major improvements in public services for Nigerians

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A mother with her child in Nigeria. Photo: World Bank

The incumbent president of the largest economy in Africa won a second term in the 2019 Nigerian election on a platform of security, stronger economy, and anti-corruption as citizens demand more from their government. Through Nigeria’s work with the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the government has an opportunity to meet some of these demands.

Nigeria recently improved its citizen participation and accountability rating according to the Worldwide Governance Indicators, but there is room for much more progress. Governance reforms at the federal and state levels have been underway for two decades. Still, Nigeria has yet to improve on many areas measured by international governance benchmarks. The Open Budget Index (OBI) ranks Nigeria in the bottom quartile of countries on fiscal transparency. According to a 2018 Afrobarometer survey, more than half of Nigerians believed that elected officials were corrupt, and two-thirds were dissatisfied with their democratic institutions.

Nigeria joined the nearly 80 countries in the OGP in 2016. As a member, Nigeria has committed to concrete reforms and fourteen broad commitments through its National Action Plan, including ambitious commitments to further improve fiscal transparency and public participation in the budgeting process. 

Nigeria could achieve significant progress by following through on the seven commitments that are particularly relevant for its state governments. These governments are responsible for over 40 percent of public expenditure and many of the public services citizens rely on every day. Fiscal transparency and accountability measures at the subnational level need strengthening. Approved budgets are generally not publicly available, or when they are, the format makes content inaccessible and often difficult for citizens and other stakeholders to grasp. 

Applying key open governance principles at the state level has the potential to enhance service delivery efficiency and effectiveness and reduce corruption. Empowering citizens with more information about how public resources are spent has the potential to bring concrete improvements to their lives.

 

 

The World Bank is supporting the Nigerian government in these efforts through an innovative Program for Results (PforR) lending operation. The $750 million “States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability” program is the largest program of this kind targeted at governance. It’s objective is to help the government meet its open government commitment on “Citizen Participation in the Budget Cycle”,  as well as strengthening fiscal transparency, accountability, and sustainability in 36 Nigerian states. 

As a part of its design, the program makes access to the funding contingent on meeting performance-based milestones. The governments must meet targets on the publication of audited financial statements and approved state budgets within defined timelines to be eligible to access the results-based funding. Technical assistance is also made available to all states.