The role of the fiscal responsibility commission
The Stephen Oronsaye ‘s report on the rationalization of the Federal Government agencies, erred seriously by recommending the scrapping of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission or its merger with any other agency. From all intents and purposes, the Committee did not appreciate the essence of its work; which is to provide opportunity for government to reduce its bloated recurrent expenditure which annually is above 70% percent of the Federal government budget, so as to have more revenue and resources for development and infrastructural renewal.
Prior to the debt relief, gained by Nigeria in 2005, the issue of fiscal responsibility and prudent management of the Nigeria’s public resources were merely economic lexicons common only among elite economists working in the public sector or public finance experts who criticized government fiscal policies using the language. Fiscal responsibility and the urgent need for prudent management of public resources came into our nation’s public consciousness and became central to our economic management efforts with the enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.
It is an Act to provide for prudent management of the nation’s resources, ensure Long-term macro-economic stability of the national economy, secure greater accountability and transparency in Fiscal operations within the Medium Term Fiscal Policy Framework, and the establishment of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to ensure the promotion and enforcement of the nation’s economic objectives; and for related matters.
The Fiscal Responsibility Commission has mandate under the enabling Act to:
(i) compel any person or government institution to disclose information relating to public revenues and expenditure; and (ii) cause an investigation into whether any person has violated any provisions of this Act. (2) If the Commission is satisfied that such a person has committed any punishable offence under this Act violated any provisions of this Act, the Commission shall forward a report of the investigation to the Attorney-General of the Federation for the possible prosecution.
(3)The Commission has functions to; (a)monitor and enforce the provisions of this Act and by so doing, promote the economic objectives contained in section 16 of the Constitution; (b). disseminate such standard practices including international good practice that will result in greater efficiency in the allocation and management of public expenditure, revenue collection, debt control and transparency in fiscal matters; ©. Undertake fiscal and financial studies, analysis and diagnosis and disseminate the result to the general public; (d) make rules for carrying out its functions under the Act; and (e). Perform any other function consistent with the promotion of the objectives of this Act.
The role of the Commission in this economy and especially in an era of transformation as President Jonathan propagates needs not be over emphasized; because the whole idea of promoting the economic objectives of the constitution is at the heart of the wellbeing of the people and the economy of Nigeria. That is why the grund norm, the constitution guarantees the welfare of the country and its economic objectives in Chapter 2, Section 16 as follows: (1) The State shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this Constitution.
“(a) harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy;
(b) control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity;
(c) without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy manage and operate the major sectors of the economy;
(d) without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy….”
Apart from successive annual budgets, which are not faithfully implemented, there is no public finance law in the country that seeks to give life to the letters of the economic objectives of the constitution like the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.
Be that as it may, it is however saddening that the federal government is planning based on Steve Oronsaye’s report to scrap the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and its work of ensuring full implementation of the Act despite its achievements within the five years it has existed. The agency was established by an Act of Parliament meant to enhance service delivery, poverty eradication, guaranteeing adequate standard of living, sustainable economic growth, good governance and the institutionalization of democracy. Simply put, it implies living according to the nation’s means, planning expenditure, ensuring sustainability, borrowing only when necessary and as much as the nation has the ability to pay back, being accountable, transparent and open, encouraging popular participation, planning fiscal activities in a logical manner, maintaining fiscal discipline, promoting strategic priorities and delivering value for money etc .
The inability of our country’s successive governments and fiscal policy managers to manage the wealth of the nation in line with the above prudent principles and international best financial practices is the cause of our nation’s economic depression and declined fortunes.