By EDDIE OSIFELO
SPEAKER of Parliament, Patterson Oti says the production of the Citizen Budget Guide 2020/21 is timely.
The Guide is an important tool to present the national budget in a simple way that can transform the culture of accountability.
Speaking at the launching of the booklet at Honiara Hotel on Monday night, Oti said not only it will complement the work of Parliament is doing but also it is an indication of the growing desire in “our country to transform the public sector by increasing efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, accountability, access to information, and citizen participation.”
He stressed that the national budget impacts the entire country: all sectors and institutions, and all communities, whether urban or rural.
However, Oti said the challenge, of course, is that budget information can be complex and is produced by different parts of the government at different times.
“It is thus disjointed, located in different, often quite complicated, document,” he said.
Oti said for instance, it usually takes Parliament 4 days to review the Budget Bill and Estimates, both make up more than 700 pages of budgetary information.
He said in many respects, these documents are written for the internal use of government, and so use technical terms that most ordinary people do not understand.
“If they cannot understand what is presented to them, they cannot ask questions about it.
“The people are, in effect, unable to hold their government to account,” he said.
Oti said like the budget briefs that is produced for Parliamentarians by the Floating Budget Missions – the Citizen Budget Guide summarizes and explains basic budget information.
He said it is a report to the people, presented in an accessible format using simple and clear language they can understand.
“This is a key milestone that will encourage engagement to monitor public funds and resources that are allocated in accordance with the wishes and needs of the people,” he said.
Furthermore, Oti said in the day and age where having access to accurate information is critical – the Citizen Budget Guide is a step in the right direction – especially in improving people’s perception of budget and to promote accountability and transparency in public financial management.
The launching coincided with a four days’ workshop at Heritage Park Hotel that started on Monday and concludes on Friday.