By Sylvia Felix
Award winning veteran journalist, Isine Ibanga has urged journalists to track the performance of budgets in the State in order to promote accountability.
Ibanga, who publishes The Next Edition, stated this Monday in a virtual training session for staff of Cross River’s foremost online Newspaper, CrossRiverWatch on investigative journalism where he averred that it was a ritual for investigative journalists to carry out budget tracking.
Budgets are numerical representations of expected income and expenditure over a specific period of time which are crafted to achieve the primary purpose of governments and set objectives.
And, while citing recent budgets of the Cross River State government with different tags including; Blush and Bliss(2021), Kinetic Crystalization (2017), Infinite Transposition (2018) and Olympotic Meristemasis (2020), he urged CrossRiverWatch staff to revisit the budget to be able to trace if there was any atom of seriousness or unseriousness in such budgets.
He posited that budget tracking was not just a media or civil society tool for examining public resource flow, as it is a means in ensuring government budgets are executed as intended since every budget, “must impact on an average citizen.”
Ibanga who fled the country after threats on his life following one of his investigative reports, accused civil servants of being major drivers of corruption in Nigeria and averred that civil servants held “the knife and the yam,” a proverb which meant they had the power to curb corruption in the country.
“Civil servants are the major tool in fighting corruption in Nigeria. If all civil servants rise up and say No! Enough is enough! When the government embezzles money for their selfish interest then that government will not be able to steal from its citizens anymore,” Ibanga said.
To achieve these, Ibanga said journalists needed to develop a strong passion and courage, research, review antecedents of what had happened, understand government fiscal policy and approved budget, ask questions from experts, cultivate relationships, develop story map/plan which entails where one wants to go, the right person to meet and the kind of information to be given, reading up interview techniques as well as deciding on which budgetary issues to track and concentrate.
“If you are carrying out a building project, visit the project to see the bill of quantity or architectural design, ask an expert if the building replicates what is in the building to know if it tallies with the bill of quantities and check how much was budgeted for by the government.
“Take note of everything you see, hear, and feel, talk to people and take pictures as well as record videos. This is because you are an eye witness,” he said.
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