Sub-national transparency in Nigeria has been an imperceptible journey since its return to democratic rule in 1999. The budget document, which is the second most important document of a state indicates how the resources of the states are mobilised and utilised to meet competing societal needs. Over the years, these documents have been shrouded in secrecy. As a result, citizens are denied the right to participate in the budgeting process, making it difficult for them to effectively carry out their oversight functions and demand accountability from their elected representatives. This age-long opacity has resulted in institutionalised corruption and poor state socio-economic development.
We launched our Open Budget System (OBS) initiative in 2015 to break this age-long opacity. The OBS aims to get state governments to open up their budgeting process for citizens’ participation from formulation to implementation. As of 2021, seven (7) states have signed up for the Open Budget System in Nigeria.
To advance the Open Budget System (OBS) initiative, BudgIT, with support from the British Council’s Rule of Law and Anti-corruption (RoLac) Program supported by the European Union, developed and launched the Open States web Portal in 2020 to serve as a data repository for public finance documents such as budgets, citizens budget, audit reports, budget implementation reports etc. which allows the citizens to access and interact with government officials, especially at the finance and budget offices. Each state has its unique identifier portal, which is managed by representatives of the budget or planning commission of the respective states.
The open state portal has provided ordinary citizens, citizen groups, civil society organisations, academicians, and political class information about state government budgets to watch how public finances are mobilised and utilised. Open states portal has enhanced transparency in the states to reduce administrative and financial corruption by allowing different portal users to monitor the financial information and the trend of public spending.
Our last analysis of the portal usage in October 2021 showed that 3,225 people were using the platform, 16,144 page views, and an average of 340 active monthly users. Nigeria, the United Kingdom and China are the most frequent portal users.