Transparency in the budget is the need of the hour. Public participation in the budgeting process is the right of the citizens and the budget should be considered a public document. In this regard, the government should take immediate steps to improve the budgeting process. These views were expressed by different speakers in a seminar on “State of Open and Transparent Budgeting in Pakistan” organized by Citizens’ Network for Budget Accountability (CNBA) in collaboration with CPDI at Lahore.
Speaking on the occasion, former Federal Information Commissioner Zahid Abdullah said that people have the right to know where their money is being spent and what plans are being made for their welfare. He further said that the budget is being kept away from the public like a secret document in most departments of Pakistan. He emphasized the need to digitize budget documents and demanded to make they be paperless. He said that it is no less than a tragedy that government departments are still reluctant to provide information to the public, but he hoped that it would improve in the future. He further added that it is the responsibility of government departments to ensure the active disclosure of information.
Earlier, Faisal Manzoor, Project Manager of CPDI, while presenting the contents of the CPDI’s third annual report on the “State of Budget Transparency in Pakistan”, said that a lot of work needs to be done regarding budget transparency at the federal and provincial levels. There is a need for timely completion of its various stages, preparation of the budget according to the budget rules, and transparency in the budget documents should be ensured. Strong legislation is to be needed for public participation in the budget-making process.
Addressing the seminar, Sardarzada Syed Zulfiqar Haider Shah, Ex-Vice Chairman, Zila Council Chiniot, Malik Fakhar Iqbal Tawana, Ex-Chairman MC Mitha Tiwana Khushab, said that the district governments are not taken into confidence during budgeting and its distribution to the districts. Especially during the planning of development projects, the ground realities and the needs of the areas should be considered, which is sorely lacking. The budget document needs to be made easier for the local representatives to understand. He also said that LGs receive budgets prepared by government officials and LGs representatives have no option to amend or revise them.
Representative of LG& CD Mr. Khizr Hayat praised the budget seminar and that undoubtedly the questions raised in the seminar are of great importance and that better budgeting can be done only with the participation of public representatives. Mr. Zaryan, the representative of the Industries Department, said that most of the information related to his department is available on the website, from which people can benefit, but the statements made with reference to the budget are worthy of consideration and need to be worked on. There is a need and they will try to improve it with reference to their department.
Ms. Fareeha Younis, representative of the Chamber of Commerce Lahore, in her address said that there is a need for gender-based budgeting in order to bring the neglected communities into the mainstream. He further said that there is an urgent need to work on budgeting with reference to women, children, and transgenders. A large number of women including representatives of various NGOs and departments, and journalists participated in the seminar.