By Omoh Gabriel
Zero budgeting cannot be responsible for budget padding. It cannot be the reason for rats smuggling foreign provisions into the budget. It can not be the reason for double entry in allocation to ministries, departments and agencies of government. Those who prepare the budget have been around for many years.
The former Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation Dr.Bright Okogu holds a PhD in Economics from from the famous University of Oxford London in 1987. He is not a stranger to budgetting process and figures. Buhari presents N6.08trn 2016 budget to NASS Buhari presents N6.08trn 2016 budget to NASS It is unheard of in the history of Nigeria’s budget circle and very shameful for the image of this administration that a serving minister will publicly disown the provisions made for his ministry. In the growing controversies dogging President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2016 budget, Federal Ministry of Health disowned the budget proposal submitted on its behalf by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who addressed the Senate Committee on Health during its budget defense session, said the proposal drawn up by the ministry and submitted to the budget office had been doctored and that “foreign” appropriations, different from what was submitted, had been sneaked in. “We have to look into the details of the budget and re-submit it to the committee,” he said. “This was not what we submitted. We will submit another one. We do not want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there.”
Adewole’s revelation is one of the several controversies and embarrassing disclosures trailing the 2016 budget proposed by President Buhari. It is more embarrassing considering that this is APC-led government’s first budget which is supposed to be a budget to advance the cause of change agenda in Nigeria. Earlier, the Senate had discovered a sum of N10 billion “questionably smuggled” into the budget of the Ministry of Education for an allegedly questionable subhead. Sadly, a senior Presidency official told PREMIUM TIMES that a “budget mafia” was responsible for the embarrassing allocations in the budget. Mafia in Nigeria’s budgeting process? Somebody must answer for this national disgrace and international embarrassment.
Is it not disgusting that BBC said that rats have smuggled foreign items into Nigeria’s 2016 budget? What can be more disgraceful to a government and a nation than this? Nigerian civil servants do not want any form of change. They want business as usual. They are the ones who teach politicians how to steal the nation blind while helping themselves to the national cake. They live above their means and the current war on corruption will not stop them.
They may have vowed to frustrate the zero budget agenda. Just last week, the newly set up unit in the Federal Ministry of Finance disclosed that the Federal Government spent N825 billion in three years on travels, maintenance, local and international training, welfare and office stationery / computer consumables.
The head of the Efficiency unit set up by the Ministry of Finance to streamline government overhead expenditure, Ms. Patience Oniha, said that from the study of government overhead expenditure it carried out between 2012 and 2014; on the average, 60 per cent of Federal Government’s overhead expenditure were incurred through local and international travels, maintenance, local and international training, welfare, office stationery and consumables, honourarium and sitting allowance, meals and refreshment and books. It is only in Nigeria that civil servants and other government functionaries travel on first class tickets. On weekends, these unpatriotic “evil” servants called civil servants, flock the streets of London, Paris, Amsterdam, Dubai etc. to spend their loots from government overhead budget provisions. According to Oniha, the Unit, which carried out an extensive and detailed review of the Overhead Expenditure data of the government for the period 2012 to 2014, found that the overhead spending pattern was concentrated on a limited number of items including travel, maintenance, local and international training, welfare and office stationery/computer consumables. Oniha stated that “The Cumulative Expenditure on these five items was N825 billion, representing 61 percent of the Cumulative Total Overhead Expenditure of N1,353 billion for 2012 to 2014. This means that the average amount expended annually on these five items during this period was N275 billion.
The estimate for 2015 shows a continuation of this trend.” Overhead spending exceeded allocations to capital in all the years reviewed. It is not surprising then that some of these principal officers went out of their ways to pad up the budget to achieve their personal gains of milking the nation dry. Looking at how much was spent on international and local travels, welfare, stationary, consumer consumables, meals, entertainment and others, a rational Nigerian would be forced to ask whether these are key drivers of an economy struggling to grow.
Are these government officials not paid salaries and allowances? Why should so much be spent on meals, tea, and other non- essentials when the economy is begging for infrastructural development? Does it occur to Nigerians that in each year, from 2012 to 2014, Nigeria as a country, spent about 60 per cent of its recurrent expenditure on overhead expenses on these five non- essential items? Certainly, this kind of expenditure profile cannot and will not enable the nation diversify and cannot move the economy forward. Budgets are meant to support goods and services and reflect government’s priority in terms of areas that need to be improved upon. Mr. President, if it is true that mafia or rats doctored the 2016 budget, please find the mafia and kill the rats.