The Local Government Accountability Mechanism (LGAM) with support from the Partnership to Engage, Reform & Learn (PERL) organized a two-day Stakeholders’ Reflection and Presentation of Community Development Charter (CDC) 2021 Half-Year Performance and 2022 Influence. The objectives were to: facilitate reflection and review of the CDC process during the 2022 budget formulation of the 23 LGAs; strengthen the CDC champions’ ability to adapt and engage the emerging dynamics in the CDC process; and publicly present the 2021/2022 CDC scorecard to stakeholders for feedback and validation.
In attendance were the Executive Chairman of Kudan LGA, Vice Chairman of Lere LGA – who represented the Executive Chairman, representatives of the Chairmen of Jema’a and Kaduna North LGAs, S.A to the Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, members of the Local Government Accountability Mechanism from five LGAs, CDC Champions, civil society organizations.
Others include the Ministry for Local Government Affairs represented by S.A Media to the Honorable Commissioner together with an Officer of the Ministry, Office of the Auditor-General for Local Governments, Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Secretary of the House Committee on Local Governments of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, Community & Social Development Agency, media and PERL team.
The interactive engagement generated a number of observations and recommendations, and also resolutions were reached at the end.
Stakeholders at the engagement commended the Kaduna state government for initiating far-reaching planning and budgeting reforms towards improving public financial management and quality of service delivery at the Local government level.
The key reform drivers identified by the stakeholders are the Local Government Development Plans (LGDP), Community Development Charter (CDC) and Local Government Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (LFTAS) program.
The reforms have improved access to information, citizens’ engagement in the planning and budget process and increased public awareness on governance processes at the local government level. This is evident as needs prioritized by community stakeholders are now informing the LGAs annual budgets, budget town-hall meetings are now held annually, audited reports for LGAs are consistently made public and the establishment of the co-created Local Government Accountability Mechanism in the 23 LGAs
Notwithstanding, this is not without challenges such as some of the chairmen were hesitant to buy-into the reforms, many of the Local Government Councils do not align their annual budgets with the LGDP, mutual suspicion exist between CDC Champions and some council members, nonchalant attitude of residents towards governance and the delay in cash-backing of the LFTAS performance grant.
The CDC was acknowledged to be the most successful so far among the reforms as on average over the past three years it has informed the annual budget of the 23 LGAs by 50%, as seen with the 54% influence in the 2022 draft budgets. However, actual performance has remained poor with an average of 30% across the 23 LGAs, with a 33% performance for 2021 half year.
Despite concerted efforts to increase public awareness on the CDC process, there is still widespread low public consciousness and understanding of the CDC process in the various local governments.
Disturbingly, some council members are suspicious of the CDC Champions as they are seen as usurpers; however, the Champions were encouraged to ensure they work closely with the Councilors to get their buy-in and ownership.
Similarly, over the last two years, it has been observed that most of the CDC projects being proposed by the community stakeholders have very weak justifications; hence the need to strengthen the capacity of the CDC Champions to support communities to write convincing justifications to increase the chances of influencing the annual LGA budgets.
The provision of section 72 of the Local Government Reform law, 2018, mandates local government councils to collect community inputs and subject the annual budgets to consultation in a town-hall meeting before taking it for appropriation.
The progress made so far in deepening participatory budgeting at the local government level was acknowledged.
The score-card presented showed that out of the 1,464 total capital projects of the 23 LGAs in the 2021 approved budgets, as at half-year only 204 projects have gotten releases, that is 13.9%. Furthermore, out of the 542 CDC nominated capital projects, only 97 got releases, that is 17.9%. The average 2021 half-year performance of the 23 LGAs is 33.5%.
As for the 2022 draft budget, out of the 1,704 projects being proposed for the 23 LGAs, 825 are CDC nominated projects, which is 48.4% of the total projects. Similarly, out of the total amount of ₦22,035,211,703.54 proposed for capital projects, ₦11,911,616,597.44 have been allocated to CDC nominated projects, an impressive 54.1% of the allocation. The average influence for the entire 23 LGAs for the 2022 draft budget is 53.9%.
The biggest challenge identified as a blockage enabling poor implementation of the CDC prioritized projects was attributed to low revenue generation capacity of LGAs. As it is common knowledge, Section 9, of the State Joint Local Government Account Allocation Committee Law, 2019, mandates the councils to make first line charge payments for about eight items taking a large chunk of the FAAC.
The increment of minimum wage has further overstretched the scarce revenue being generated; thereby almost rendering some of the LGAs bankrupt with teachers’ salaries taking a large chunk of the funds.
Similarly, the expected statutory 10% of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) remittance by the State to the Local Governments is not being adequately remitted (as seen in the Auditor-General reports of 2018, 2019 and 2020). Also, the same can be said of the revenue being collected on behalf of the LGAs by the State in line with the tax law (as amended).
Furthermore, the delay in cash-backing the LFTAS performance grants awarded to the LGAs was raised as a major source of concern with negative effects threatening the sustainability of some of the reforms.
The Office of the Auditor-General for Local Governments was commended for the consistency in making public its reports with progressive improvement in the format of publication. The Audit Law was also recently amended to empower the Office to be more effective in carrying out its mandate.
The importance of empowering the Kaduna Fiscal Responsibility Commission through increased funding, staffing and amendment of the law to empower the Commission to enforce compliance was emphasized – as this will allow them effectively carry-out their mandate at both the State and Local Government Level. Currently, the Commission is unable to fully carry-out its mandate due to the aforementioned challenges.
The Partnership to Engage, Reform & Learn (PERL/FCDO) was commended for its consistency in supporting ongoing local government reforms and community engagements towards improved service delivery in Kaduna state.
The State Government through the Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) and Economic Planning Board should develop a comprehensive framework that will ensure local government councils get the statutory 10% and IGR reconciliation is done timely and as appropriate.
The State Government through the Ministry of Finance should accelerate the cash-backing for the 2018 LFTAS performance grants to the 23 LGAs. The funds should go into purchasing working tools (laptops) for key officials and low-cost CDC projects.
The Planning & Budget Commission should endeavor to carry-out the 2019/2020 LFTAS performance assessment; and importantly, review the criteria and indicators to reflect current realities. As this will sustain the motivation behind the program and add to the local government revenue no matter how small.
The State Government should liaise with the Local Government Councils to leverage on the State capital budgets of the Ministry for Local Government Affairs, Kaduna Roads Agency (KADRA), Community & Social Development Agency (CSDA), Rural Water Supply & Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) among others to integrate and implement some CDC prioritized projects due to the fiscal constraints being faced by the LGAs.
In the spirit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), it is being proposed that a state level technical working group, made up of an equal number of relevant state and non-state actors, should be constituted to support the strengthening of the local government accountability mechanism.
The Local Government Councils should be sensitized and encouraged, in line with the Local Government Reform Law and LGDP, to take ownership of the CDC process as the major channel for identifying community prioritized needs into the annual budget.
The Local Government Councils should make provision for lump sum discretionary allocations to the CDC to allow communities to take informed decisions during CDC prioritization as done in other climes and in line with the principles underpinning participatory budgeting.
The Kaduna State House of Assembly through the relevant committees, House Committees in charge of Local Governments and Appropriation, should consider subjecting the 23 Local Governments’ 2022 draft budgets to a public hearing with stakeholders.
The capacity of the Ministry for Local Government Affairs should be enhanced to effectively monitor and ensure that the annual budgets of the LGAs align with the Local Government Development Plans and services are delivered as planned.
The Ministry for Local Government and development partners like PERL should provide the needed technical and logistical support to strengthen the capacity of the Local Government legislative councils to effectively carry-out horizontal accountability during appropriation, oversight and public hearings.
The Office of the Auditor-General for Local Governments should work closely with LGAM towards creating public awareness on its mandate, thereby increasing the number of Audit Alarms by community stakeholders in line with the recently amended audit law.
The Fiscal Responsibility Commission should be strengthened through increased funding, staffing and capacity to function optimally in enforcing, scaling and discharging its mandate at the Local Government level.
The Kaduna State Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) chairman should be encouraged to facilitate and influence his colleagues to take ownership of the Local Government Accountability Mechanism and prioritize spending on CDC projects.
The CDC champions should carry-out advocacy to community stakeholders to raise more awareness, and also, actively engage in tracking the 2021 CDC projects that have gotten releases as at half-year (till date) to ascertain progress status of services being delivered and value for money.
The Fiscal Responsibility Commission should collaborate with LGAM to set up a Grievance Redress Mechanism to strengthen fiscal transparency, discipline and sustainability to allow citizens to effectively hold accountable defaulting Local Government Councils.
The relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should embrace media engagements towards increasing public awareness and promoting citizens’ participation in local government reforms and service delivery at the grassroots.
The communique will be widely circulated and officially submitted to the Ministry for Local Government Affairs, Planning & Budget Commission, ALGON, Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Community & Social Development Agency and Office of the Auditor-General for Local and House Committee on Local Governments.
Intensify appeals to the Kaduna State Government to accelerate the cash-backing of the LFTAS performance grants as well as timely and adequate release of other revenues due to the Local Government Councils.
LGAM to embark on advocacy visits to all relevant MDAs including the State House of Assembly to engage and dialogue on the above recommendations towards strengthening ongoing reforms and improving service delivery at the Local Governments.
All CDC Champions to step-down outputs of the stakeholders’ engagement and track CDC nominated projects said to have so far gotten releases.
LGAM to work with local government councils to track and monitor absenteeism and nonchalant attitude of primary school teachers and health personnel in line with the LFTAS criteria.
The media partners will provide platforms to amplify the recommendations and elicit public feedback.
For CDC Champions, Kaduna state
Sumayya Abdullahi Hussaini
Local Government Accountability Mechanism
Bako Abdul Usman
Campaign for Democracy
Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED)