USAID S2S Activity organises four-day PFM Midline Assessment workshop in Gombe
The United States Agency for International Development, State Accountability, Transparency and Effectiveness, State2State Activity, has organised a four-day Public Financial Management Midline Assessment workshop in Gombe State.
Recall that S2S supports states to plan and budget, raise revenues, increase Civil Society participation, and oversee service delivery in Health, Education, and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene sectors by building relevant capacities.
Our correspondent reports that the Midline Assessment workshop was facilitated by Consultants Timothy Effiong, and Professor Martins Ike-Muonso.
Participants include members of Civil Society Organisations, senior government officials from relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
Speaking during an interview with PERISCOPE NIGERIA, State Team Lead, Mohammed Abubakar, described the Public Financial Management Midline Assessment as sequel to a Baseline conducted in 2021.
According to him, the essence of such Assessment was not to apportion blame, but to recommend, and support reforms towards boosting transparency, accountability and efficiency.
He said, “This is a follow-up to the baseline that we did early in March 2021. We realised that there are so many gaps in Financial Management reform in the state. We continued to implement and support reforms, supporting government to strengthen it systems. This is a time to take stock to know what to support the state with especially in our year-four work plan. To have global best practices tradition being implemented in Gombe State.”
While elaborating on the essence of the Assessment, Abubakar lauded the drive of Gombe Civil Servants, adjudging them as the best and ever committed to taking the state to enviable height, adding “I don’t think the outcome will be a negative issue to government, instead government would be happy because it’s a collective Assessment made by key officials of government themselves. Once, there are things they are not doing S2S will support them to start doing it. Like the reform gaps, S2S is trying to see that we have the reforms closed or bridged to have maximum impact for our citizens. Gombe is very lucky to have hard working, well educated Civil Servants which have been helping the state in the comity of states anytime we go to national fora, for example Gombe, got four awards in World Bank’s States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability. You have the support of Executive, functional Legislature and you have technocrats willing to work, all they need is additional enabling environment from the Executive to continue what is good for Gombe.”
Commenting on some of the noticed gaps, Abubakar urged Gombe State Government to domesticate Freedom of Information Act, adding that it would help publicise the laudable interventions of the Muhammadu Yahaya’s-led administration.
“When we don’t have Freedom of Information, citizens may not have access to government programmes and they wouldn’t have good understanding and ways to tell government to ameliorate existing problems especially in the social sector which we are focused on. Unless we have efficient service delivery that will improve funding in the areas, we will continue to have challenges. Gombe has been doing well but there are existing gaps the Fiscal Responsibility Commission Board is there but the members have not been inaugurated. We are appealing to the governor to inaugurate them. The Open Governance State Steering Committee is in place but yet to be inaugurated, we are appealing to the governor to inaugurate them.
“On the absence of FOIA there are certain things that government is doing that people will not know because they can’t ask certain questions. Government is shortchanging, underreporting itself by not demonstrating what it doing. However, with Freedom of Information this is what we are doing for your benefits, and if there are areas that they want to get additional support it is easy,” he added.
On his part, Public Financial Management Specialist S2S, Gombe, Oluwatosin Oke, explained that the essence of the Assessment was to see what changed, stressing that concentration was hinged on seven pillars.
Oke said, “We are doing this Assessment to see what has improved, changed and it covers seven areas. We are looking at Budget Planning preparation, execution and reporting, the systems in place that guides budgeting
“Budget Transparency, how transparent is the budget process of Gombe State and from public budget presentation to publication both from stage of planning to execution.
“Procurement, how is procurement carried out in Gombe State, how accessible are procurement information as well as how procurement complaint are managed and the legal framework.
“Internal Controls and Financial Reporting, what are some of those controls, rules put in place to ensure financial transactions of the state are done in the best way.
“Domestic Resource Mobilisation, we know Internally Generated Revenue is in the control of the state government, so what are the systems in place to generate adequate IGR?
“External Auditing, after the financial transaction, what are the framework, to know if there are laws that allows creation of the establishment of an independent audit institution in the state that can audit and evaluate the financial activities of government without interference.
“Debt Management, because we are looking at the sustainability of the state the fiscal sustainability of the state, can the state borrow at will or there is a legislation guiding the borrowing, what is the state’s borrowing threshold, is the state currently sustainable?”
On impact of the Assessment workshop Oke described it as informational, “it will help us know the gaps, what we can do to support the state and it also provides information for the state government themselves to know where the gaps are,” he added.
Speaking on gaps of 2021, some of which are still current, Oke added, “We discovered in 2021 the state has no Freedom of Information law there is no legal framework that the public can hold to approach their government and demand for some information because that law is not there the state government officials can decide not to release public records. Although the state has implemented SFTAS which made them open up but without the law an official can decide to withhold information and there is nothing anyone can do but with the law you can access public documents in the state as long as they are not confidential, security information or information that will allow anyone perpetrate crime they have access to the law. The state can also focus on amending the Fiscal Responsibility Act in Gombe State to make it more robust, Freedom to Information, Fiscal Responsibility can be backed by law.”
Commending the efforts of State2State intervention, Director, Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, Ngalaban Danborno, lauded the management and consultants for the far-reaching Assessment which would ensure development in the state.
“I must sincerely appreciate State2State for organising this Assessment for Gombe State Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. It’s our prayer that God will continue to bless this project. I want to appreciate you for your undiluted inputs, technical guidance,” Danborno said.
Danborno who spoke on behalf of stakeholders assured that they would take necessary actions towards realising the next steps, “I just want to inform you that we have noted the next steps we are going to take action to ensure results,” he added.
Also, Dr Olugbenga Oyewole, S2S PFM Technical Director, commended the stakeholders for their rapt attention, support throughout the four-day workshop.
Oyewole said, “Gombe is receptive. We have done baseline, midline, we will still come back to do the end of the project Assessment by the grace of God. We will be hale and hearty and for those of you who must have retired, you will follow-up to say I was part of this success story.”
While extending the felicitation of management of S2S to Gombe PFM stakeholders Oyewole added, “I want to let you know that we are ready to support you to ensure that at the end of the day the state succeeds.”
He disclosed that they just completed year four work plan, stressing that S2S funders are impressed with the huge progress its interventions are yielding Gombe people, especially in strengthening systems that would ensure transparency, accountability and efficiency around its three thematic areas.
“They are saying that we are doing well and one of the reasons they said we are doing well is because you are doing well. Whatever, we do if result is not coming out they wouldn’t say we are doing well at the end; we will be happy that we contributed to a good system,” S2S PFM Technical Director, added.