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This study was designed to appraise budgetary practices in grant-aided secondary schools in North Central, Nigeria. Specifically the study sought to; find out the extent procedures of budget preparation by the principals and the bursars complies with school budget guidelines, determine the extent budget estimates of principals are prepared in accordance with budget guidelines, ascertain the extent budgetary provisions by principals are in accordance with budget guidelines among others. Five research questions and four null hypotheses guided the study. Descriptive survey design was employed. A 43- item questionnaire was administered to 568 respondents, composing 284 principals and 284 bursars drawn from 284 grant-aided secondary schools.
Documentary evidences were used in order to obtain qualitative information on the responses of the subjects. Mean scores and standard deviations were used to answer research questions while the z-test statistic was used to test the null hypotheses at 0.05 Alpha levels. The study found among other ones that Principals’ budgetary estimates to a great extent follow laid down budget guidelines. However principals and bursars disagreed on the proposition that no expenditure may be incurred outside estimates except on the authority of a duly signed warrant. The procedures used for budget preparation by principals and bursars to a great extent comply with budget guidelines. The adequacy of budgetary provisions by the principals to a great extent conform with the laid down school budget blue prints, even though Board of Governors do not readily
approve alternative sources of funds sought for by principals. Principals to a little extent use formalized monitoring strategies to ensure compliance with budget provisions by the heads of departments. Factors that inhibit principals’ compliance with budget guidelines include; delay in budget approval by the Ministry of Education and Schools Board, Principals neglect the opinions of their subordinates in budget preparation, Principals do not make financial reports available to heads of departments and heads of units after monitoring visit for their future guide, officers who did not adhere to budget guidelines were not queried. The inability of state governments to subsidize the cost of secondary education affects budgetary practices of principals. Based on the findings and implications of the study therein, the following recommendations are made; Principals and bursars of secondary schools should be trained regularly on how to adhere and comply strictly with the budget guidelines. Principals are to
monitor budgetary processes in their schools by setting up budget monitoring committee among the members of the staff. The state Boards should ensure that warrant of expenditure is issued to the principals at the beginning of every session early enough to avoid financial discrepancies that could affect teaching and leaning in grant-aided secondary schools.


Background of the Study

The importance of effective budgetary practices at all levels of economy has for long been the major concern of many educationists, economists and politicians. This is because effective budgetary practices reflect the focus of administrators’ expenditure and revenue for major development in any financial year. Aguba (2009) believed that a budget is a financial blue print for the operation of organization, including the school system, for the fiscal year. In consonance with this, Ogbonnaya (2005) defined a budget as the financial statement of the proposed expenditure and expected revenue of the government, public corporations, or educational institutions for a particular period of time.
Budget, therefore is an itemized summary of estimated or intended expenditures for a given period along with proposals for financing organizational programmes necessary for the attainment of pre-determined objectives. Budget is expected to control wastage and extravagant spending in grant-aided secondary schools.
School budget is an established financial standard needed to consciously guide the activities of a school administrator towards the attainment of the aims and objectives of the school in a given fiscal year (Ayodele, 2006). This position is in line with the United States General Accounting office report in 1998 when it asserted that school budgeting had historically been the process of balancing expenditure with revenue to effect changes in spending, a process policy makers  view as constrictive. Constrictive in this context has to do with strict control of budget administration in schools. 
According to Roe cited in Ogbonnaya (2005), education budget is the method through which the translation of educational needs into a financial plan which is interpreted to the public in such a way that when formally adopted, it expresses the kind of educational programme in focus. Educational budget can be described as the proposed income and expenditure of educational institutions within a particular period of time, usually in an academic session.
In general, Bala (2011) defined educational budget as an out line of plan for financing the school system for a particular period of time. Bala believed that the school budget should have timeframe to allow effective appraisal or evaluation of budget to take place. Educational budget therefore, is a financial plan that sets forth the resources necessary to meet a set of goals in an academic institution for a certain period of time. Budget is recorded in monetary terms, it sets realistic goals for programmes, staffing and operations. The revenue side of the budget identifies the means for financing the plan, while the expenditure side of the budget estimates the cost of the plan.
In any case the budget is the key instrument for the expression and execution of the school administration’s financial policy. Educational budget has a wide range of implications for the achievement of educational objectives because staff members have to be paid their salaries and wages, equipment need to be provided for use, infrastructural facilities need to be provided and existing ones need to be maintained for effective performance. 
UNESCO’S blue print for effective budget administration as stated by Mckinnon, Walker and Davis (2002), include procedures for budget preparation, budget forecast/estimates, adequate budget provision, implementation strategies, supervision or monitoring of budgetary practices, assessment and evaluation of results. In the light of these principles of budgetary practices set out by UNESCO, the concern of this study is to appraise the following key factors as they relate to grant-aided secondary schools; procedures used for budget preparation by principals and bursars, budget estimates by principals, budgetary provisions by principals, use of formalized monitoring strategies by principals, and factors that inhibit principals’ compliance with budget guidelines in grantaided secondary schools.


Budget procedure is the manner in which principals in grant-aided secondary schools prepare the school budget, process it, based on guidelines
issued to them for revenue collection and expenditures to be incurred. Budget estimate is a preliminary assessment either of funds projected to be available to the school or funds required to complete a project. It also involves translating programmes and projects to monetary terms. In the same vein, budgetary provision is the outlines of areas necessary for revenue or completion of project, such as recurrent and capital projects. Budget provision is used for planning purpose.
Budget monitoring requires the examination of laid down principles to be used by school administrators and verification of documents kept by them for proper budgetary practices. The essence of this is to ensure orderliness in budget  process and to offer suggestions for improvement in budget administration. Also budget implementation is the distribution of resources and funds from the central pool to the departments and units of a school for the execution of various projects and programmes as contained in the budget document therein.
The researcher intends to examine the budget variables to find out whether principals adhere to or comply with budget guidelines entrenched for them. It is  perceived by many people that budgeting is a simple process of financial accounting, however based on the researcher’s experience many people are concerned with the weightings of money in budget estimations at the expense of laid down guidelines for budgetary practices.
Budgetary practices are the concerted efforts made by government, corporations, educational institutions or individuals to realize their
organizational pre-determined goals through effective planning of budget components.

Budgetary practices in schools reflect the way principals carry out processing, estimates, planning, implementing, monitoring and administration of school budgets. Budgetary practices of principals in secondary schools can be broken down into various parts forming a cycle that repeats itself on a yearly basis. Accordingly, budgetary practices require the preparedness to allocate the available resources in such a manner as to avoid discrepancies, duplication and wastage, and also communicating the approved plans of budget to the various executives who are responsible for ensuring that the plans are implemented.
Budgetary practices also involve allocation of funds and authorization of expenditure in each school year. Nzekwe (2007) believes that schools’ financial operations are measured, developed, adopted and executed through budgetary practices. Budget is one of the tools used to provide the bases for controlling the financial affairs of principals and also used to measure their efficiency. In line with Nzekwe’s believe, Omede (2010) opined that, the number of educational needs have grown so much that, there is need to operate an effective budget in order to cope with the current educational challenges in Nigeria. It becomes imperative to appraise budgetary practices in secondary school because an effective budgetary practice is believed to be a necessary condition for the improvement of secondary school administration.
Appraisal is defined by Camenon (2000) as the process of making value judgments or taking decisions about events, or their characteristics. Camenon further affirmed that the judgment is based on empirical data or information made available through review which is quantitatively measured. Appraisal in this context therefore aims at obtaining information from principals and bursars of grant-aided secondary schools to enable the researcher make value judgments about their compliance with budget guidelines. On the other hand budget appraisal is an assessment of results at the end as related to the original objectives set for the programme.
The process of appraisal takes into consideration the estimates at the initial stage of planning. The officer who operates the budget is expected to issue financial reports to the Teaching Service Board on a regular basis, indicating the total expenditures to date, balance in the account and anticipated problems in keeping within the main budget item limitation. The review of the guidelines necessitates that a recommendation could be made for better educational operations (Burup and Brimley cited in Nzekwe, 2007).

Budget guidelines obtained from Teaching Service Commission of each of the six states in North Central, Nigeria is the yardstick for the appraisal of budgetary practices of principals in grant-aided secondary schools. Appraisal of budgetary practices in grant-aided secondary schools is expected to improve financial managements in these schools.
Grant-aided secondary schools are part of educational institutions which their principals ought to improve their budgetary practices in order to attain the predetermined goals of secondary schools. Principals are expected to effectively mobilize available resources and to develop good strategies for carrying out expenditure in schools. Grant-aided secondary schools are educational institutions set up for the purpose of training middle manpower, inspire students with a desire for self-improvement and achievement of excellence, to provide opportunity for education of higher level (FRN, 2009).
Oguche (2005) Also noted that grant-aided secondary schools (GASS) are post primary schools established by missions, communities, or individuals that were taken over by the government to fund and control for the purpose of preparing students for tertiary education and middle level employment. Although these institutions are taken over by the government, the proprietors who established the schools are stakeholders in managing the schools. State governments recognize the fact that grant-aided secondary schools are viable tools and capable of inducing changes into national growth and development by producing high quality students who will on the long- run become components for the cultural, socio-economic and environmental sustainable development of individuals, communities and nations (U.N.E.S.C.O., 2003).
Grant-aided secondary schools are governed by Board of Governors. The Board of Governors determines the programmes of the schools, receives budget estimates and considers it before forwarding it to the Ministry of Education/Teaching Service Board. The membership of Board of Governors in all grant-aided secondary schools in North Central, Nigeria is made up of both state government and proprietor representatives respectively.
Okpanachi (2005), observed that most of the secondary schools in the North Central, Nigeria lack basic facilities like electricity, toilet facilities and
other supporting facilities that will enhance teaching and learning. In addition, if members of staff are not properly remunerated it could in turn affect teachers’ level of productivity with all the negative implications on the students. The need to maintain good budgetary practices by principals of secondary schools could be to ensure good working condition for all members of staff and to make the school environment conducive for learning and teaching in order to attain the goals of education.
Principals are the administrative heads of secondary schools. In grant-aided secondary schools, proprietors nominate three persons and the Teaching Service Commission approves one person out of the three. The principal of a secondary school is regarded as the chief executive, the mentor, the leader and the welfare officer of the school. Accordingly, Orji (2001) observed that principals are financial managers who perform financial functions. The principal also take very important decisions to ensure that funds are available and utilized in the most efficient way. Principals prepare and operate the budget of their schools with the bursars/finance clerks who over see the finance department.

The  ursars/finance clerks are employees of the Teaching Service Board. They are career civil servants and occupy the position by promotion. Furthermore, the bursars/finance clerks are involved in one way or the other in the financial management activities of the schools. Bursars are the custodians of school account books, make necessary entries as prescribed by financial guidelines, collect and collate budget items, effect payments on behalf of the principals, prepare and pay salaries to all categories of workers among other duties. 

In the view of Ogbonnaya (2012), the success of the budget should be judged by the extent to which its estimates and expenditures agree with the actual amounts received and expended. This success can not be realized without effective monitoring of budget at all the stages of budget processes. Budget monitoring ensures proper records of revenue and expenditure made according to the estimates. Bala (2011) noted that predictive budget monitoring helps to detect corruptive tendencies of school administrators and other members of staff.
Also budget monitoring forces all persons involved in budgetary practices to adhere to laid down guidelines.
The State Ministry of Education /Teaching Service Board, is expected to control the finances of the schools through the budget prepared by the principals of grant-aided secondary schools. School budget could be used to determine the compliance of principals to financial regulations in the schools. The budget guidelines as a management control system is expected to provide grant-aided secondary schools with uniform standard procedures by which principals can control and maintain up-to-date records of financial operations in their schools.
It is important that budget blue prints be followed strictly to ensure that satisfactory authorization is observed before revenue collection, and before expenditure is incurred.
Attempts have been made by the government to ameliorate the problems affecting poor budgetary practices in government establishments, including grant-aided secondary schools. These efforts include: formulation of budget guidelines, setting up of budget implementation committees at the state level, setting a time frame for budget submission, issuing financial regulations to institutions, among others. These efforts are aimed at helping administrators to operate effective and reliable budget for their organizations. However there seem to be contending issues arising from budget administration in grant-aided secondary schools. Where are we getting the budgetary practices wrong? We need to find out and make it right.
There are many criticisms against budget preparation in grant-aided secondary schools as observed by the former executive secretary of Kogi State Teaching Service Commission (Adewumi, 2003). Some of the criticisms include the fact that most principals do not involve their sub-ordinates in budget preparation and that their budget administration does not follow financial guidelines. Principals are expected to disburse funds to various units and subunits in the school based on the estimates submitted earlier by the heads of departments.

If funds are not disbursed appropriately some important items like instructional materials, science chemicals, chalk, etc may not be purchased for the teachers’ use. Nzekwe (2007) observed that in the school system, many principals have been accused of poor budgeting practices by the supervisors, teachers and parents. For example it has been observed by some school officers that the principals do not follow budget guidelines in preparing estimates nor keep and use the necessary budget documents in their schools.

Other problems such as failure of principals and bursars to attend training and workshops, seminars and conferences regularly to update their knowledge on how to carry out budget estimates, procedures for budget preparation and ability to monitor funds disbursed for the execution of various school projects can affect compliance with budget guidelines. Inability to delimitate support and active involvement of all cadre of management and failure to develop reasonable forecasts and realistic plans, may pose hindrances to effective budgetary practices of principals in secondary schools. Also where prejudice and personal biases are allowed, budgeting suffers. Budgetary practices are about improvement of the school system. It is not to be conceived as personal gain or benefit. The players in the school must consider the interest of the organization above personal or individual interest.
To buttress the above observation, Onyike (2009) expressed regret that poor budgetary practices had accounted for the seeming neglect and dilapidation of buildings and infrastructure in greater percentage of schools over a decade particularly at secondary school level. If school budgets are poorly estimated, not properly planned, poorly processed, not effectively implemented and not properly monitored, it could translate into poor infrastructure and inadequate provision of instructional materials which could also lead to series of agitations, crises, strikes, protests and demonstrations by teachers and students.

In contrast, Okpanachi (2005) and Onojah (2008) contended that principals and bursars were
knowledgeable enough to handle budget making practices in secondary schools based on their track records of experiences. In view of the conflicting opinions of various educationists and the problems observable in budgetary practices in grant-aided secondary schools, this study looked at the planning stages of school budget holistically and made some recommendations for improvement.
Particularly the extent principals and bursars in grant-aided secondary schools in North Central, Nigeria comply with budget guidelines.


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