Journalists from across all media platforms together with representatives from the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of The Gambia on Saturday, 2 November, validated the draft Handbook for Journalists on Budget and Public Finance Reporting.
Organised by the Gambia Press Union, the two-day review and validation workshop at Baobab Resort Holiday was funded by the International Republic Institute as part of a project to promote fiscal transparency and accountability.
Speaking on the occasion, GPU President Sheriff Bojang Jr said since his executive assumed leadership, some gaps were identified in terms of media reporting and part of the things identified was the low level of reporting on the national budget and public finance.
He noted that the near-absence of budget coverage was a result of little understanding of the budget processes on the part of journalists.
Therefore, the GPU approached the IRI for support to build the capacity of the local media to effectively report on the national budget and public finance system.
Mr Bojang said the Handbook for Journalists on Budget and Public Finance Reporting has been developed to serve as a resource and reference guide for journalists covering the budget and those in financial journalism as a whole.
“It focuses on all the key elements of the budget,” he said. “It explains a range of related issues to give journalists a good grounding of the budget cycle such as preparation, implementation and reporting.”
Country Director of IRI Robina Namusisi said the IRI fiscal transparency project is funded by the US Embassy in Banjul and seeks to address both supply and demand of fiscal transparency.
“The media is key in this project because if the media practitioners are well informed and engaged on the national budget and public finance process, they can then inform the citizens adequately,” she said.
Lamin Fatty, acting director of Public Private Partnership Directorate of the Ministry of Finance, said from economics perspective, media have crucial role to enable citizens to be well-informed in order to increase budget transparency and accountability which lead to sound fiscal discipline.
“The stakeholders to the government budget are her citizens who are equally the taxpayers,” he said. “Therefore, they should have access to all information about and possible feedback on total revenue collected and total expenditure that was carried out during a particular fiscal year.”
Fatty said the Handbook for Journalists on Budget and Public Finance Reporting would support the Ministry of Finance’s effort to meet international good practice standards on budget transparency.
“Additionally, this handbook will also enable non-technical experts such as journalists who are not subject matter specialists to ask very salient and brilliant questions when doing their art of reporting,” he said.