Journalists vow to ensure increased accountability in defense/security budgets

No fewer than 23 journalists drawn from the print, online, and electronic media have vowed to ensure increased transparency and accountability in the defence and security budgets.

The journalists made the avowal during a one day workshop organized by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in conjunction with Transparency International Defence Project and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands, in Yola on Thursday.

It was observed during deliberations after presentations by the two resource persons, Tolutope Agunloye and Salaudeen Hashim that the defence budgeting process is riddled with a lot of loopholes leading to high scale corruption and looting of resources earmarked to ensure the security of lives and property.

There is also a consensus that unless the media put its searchlight on some of these challenges, the current insecurity will not be resolved in the nearest foreseeable future because the conflict entrepreneurs inside and outside the military will continue to have a leeway in causing monumental havoc to society.

During the sessions, it was validated that from the inception of defence budgets up to the execution and auditing stages there are a number of observable issues such as duplication of subheads, copious insertions, and issuance of contracts without proper address and necessary documentation.

The participants were then equipped with some tools with which they can monitor, track, identify discrepancies and extra budgetary expenditures.

The journalists were also encouraged to always equip themselves with budget implementation report which is produced quarterly, open treasury portal and support the legislative comittees on oversight. They were also encouraged to always use Freedom of Information Act get the required information needed to reduce corruption incidences in defense budgets.

Some of the areas which the journalists promised to track include, security votes, personnel welfare, secretary in military culture on procurement, access to information and Defence Integrity Index (GDI) with emphasis on political.

In his keynote address, The Executive Director of the Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani said the media workshop is designed to enhance knowledge of practicing journalists on probable areas within the defence and security sector budgetary process and expenditure.

Represented by a board of trustees member of the Centre, Hajiya Hadizah Kangiwa, Rafsanjani pointed out that the training will expose the participants to a better understanding of areas of possible corruption risk and to flag same evidence based civilian oversight in order to minimise corrupt practices in the defence and security architecture.

Rafsanjani stated that for effective investigative journalism to strive journalists must begin to question the actions and inactions of government and to demand accountability for budgetary allocations meant for defence and security.

He noted that it is time that the quest for reform in the defence and security institutions transcend from mere words to an all inclusive participation in the formulation and effective implementation of policies for the actualisation of the transformation that citizens desire in our defence and security sector.

He added that CISLAC and its partners will continue to push for greater accountability and integrity in our defence and security sector because it will require a multi-stakeholders engagement in line with the principles of democratic and participatory governance.

“We will not relent in advocating for an accountable defence and security expenditure,classification and declassification of information for public consumption, increased integrity for personnel and uninterrupted civilian oversight of the sector in line with International best practices.

“We look forward to a very robust commitments of actions that will change the narrative for the better as we urge all of you (participants) to make good use of the knowledge driven from the training,” Rafsanjani said.

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