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SHOW INTEREST IN GOVT BUDGET, EZEKWESILI ADVISES NIGERIANS

By NBF News
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Vice President of the World Bank in charge of African Region, Nigeria's Mrs Oby Ezekwesili over the weekend in Port Harcourt advised Nigerians to have more than a passing interest in the planning and implementation of government's budgets.

Mrs. Ezekwesili made the call in a key note address she presented at the opening session of a two-day forum on public procurement organized for 12 states of the federation even as Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State complained that strict adherence to due process law slows his government's project execution.

The former minister in the Obasanjo-led administration warned that it was dangerous for citizens to disregard the content of their government's budgets because even with a good public procurement system in place, could encourage misplacement of policies with attendant adverse effects on the masses.

'Now, if the citizens and the indigenes do not take any interest in their budget, the wrong priority may seal up the budget. And if you have the wrong priority in the budget, and you have a perfect public procurement system, what will you have? A perfectly conducted wrong priority, isn't it. Does that benefit the poor? Definitely not.' Mrs Ezekwesili who was nicknamed 'Madam Due Process' while in government, harped on the need to develop 'a robust public financial management in the country .

She urged that those involved in the distribution and management of public funds should ensure that available resources are spread to impact on all facts of the people's lives and reduce poverty.

'If you do not improve the result that comes out from each state year in year out, you will increase the number of the classification of poor people in your state'.|

Speaking on public procurement, which she said is 'at the center of the way public money is spent', the World Bank Vice President warned that, 'poor governance and corruption in procurement invariably reduces development outcomes and are likely to discourage investment.

Mrs. Ezekwesili told states that for procurement to become an integral part of the broader governance agenda, it cannot be reformed away from the political economy of the country. She urged state governments to be patient with the new public procurement system because it might seem slow pointing out that, 'if you are going to set a new process, it will take some time'.

Addressing the gathering, Governor Amaechi said that although the Bureau on Public Procurement has been doing a good job, it has to increase its speed adding that, 'if they continue to be slow, we will be tempted to override them.'