Saturday, February 13, 2016

#Budgeoferros; Mr Pressident Your problem is on you


buhari3_Ripples_Nigeria

According to ripple.com.. It easily qualifies as the biggest scandal facing the new administration. The 2016 Budget proposal has been dogged by controversies, intrigues and nasty revelations. The proposal is the most error-laden document in the nation’s history.


First, soft and hard copies of the document were declared ‘missing’ in the National Assembly after President Muhammadu Buhari submitted it to federal lawmakers on December 22, 2015. Then, it emerged there were at least two different versions of the proposal before the National Assembly, a revelation that shocked Nigerians.
Embarrassed by the development, the Presidency had to eat the humble pie and officially withdraw the first draft. This was after initial drama and denials that trailed the disturbing revelation. The Presidency admitted some figures in the proposal were strange and inflated.
Ripples gathered that the attempt to quietly rectify the anomalies through a back-door approach backfired, leading to duplication of the document in the National Assembly. The Presidency was shocked by the insertion of many strange items and padded figures in the proposal of N6.08 trillion.
It is all an attempt to shift blames and hold others accountable for one’s failures. These discoveries are a big let-down and Nigerians are being made to suffer for it.
Cans of wormsEven after the President finally wrote the National Assembly to ask for ‘adjustment’ of the draft, the controversies didn’t go away. Instead they escalated when Ministers and Permanent Secretaries appeared for defence of proposals under them.
First, the Senate Committee discovered an alleged N10billion padding in the estimates for the Ministry of Education. The figure was “questionably smuggled” for an allegedly curious subhead.
It was also discovered there was gross inflation of the entire budget by over N1.7trillion. Not less than 6,000 items were discovered to have been smuggled into the proposals. This shot up overheads by as much as N3 trillion alone.
Padded figures, smuggled items
The Presidency blames a cartel or “Budget Mafia” in the federal civil service for the strange insertions and padding up of figures. The cartel, it said, was working towards shortchanging the nation and frustrating Buhari’s plans for financial prudence and economic resuscitation.
If all of these were embarrassing, ministers who have appeared so far have further complicated the budget controversies. Minister for Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, stunned National Assembly members when he disowned the estimates meant for his ministry on Wednesday.
Government has tried to absolve itself of any blame in the raging controversies, pointing out that bureaucrats were responsible for the inflation and padding, it is hard to think to differentiate the presidency from the civil service.
He said: “This was not what we submitted. We’ll submit another one. We don’t want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there.”
The Minister declared the proposed appropriations were different from the priorities of the health sector as contained in the “original budget.”
According to him, some vital agencies in the sector had been excluded while votes proposed by the ministry had been redistributed.
Completely shocked, the Minister submitted: “In the revised budget as re-submitted, N15.7 billion for capital allocation has been moved to other areas.
“Some allocations made are not in keeping with our priorities. There is nothing allocated to public health and family health.”
He told the committee to completely discountenance the draft before it for another that would be resubmitted the following day.
Reacting to the State House Clinic, which entire allocation is more than that for the 16 federal hospitals in the draft, Adewole said: “The State House Clinic is not under the Ministry of Health. I hope it’s not the same rats that changed things in our budget that changed it.”
He advised that “It is very important that you engage them because what happened to us might have also happened to them. It is possible that what is there might not have been what they put there.”
The Presidency blames a cartel or “Budget Mafia” in the federal civil service for the strange insertions and padding up of figures. The cartel, it said, was working towards shortchanging the nation and frustrating Buhari’s plans for financial prudence and economic resuscitation.
The otherwise boisterous Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, also dissociated himself from N398million estimated for procurement of computers in the ministry.
In his budget defence session, Mohammed said the proposed figure was unknown to him. He claimed to be unaware of the N230 million and N168 million voted for the purchase of computers for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and the Film and Video Censors Board.
When confronted with the figures, he said: “No, that is not possible. That was definitely not what was proposed, this cannot be.”
A ministry official at the session pointed out that only N5 million was proposed for the item in the original budget of the NFVCB.
Managing Director of NAN, Ima Niboro, also expressed shock at the N230m for the purchase of the same item captured under “Capital Votes” in the 2016 budget of the agency.
Rejection galore
Because of the spurious figures and estimates, federal lawmakers have paid more than passing attention to demands from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Senate Committee on Gas Resources last week rejected N200 million allocation by Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the budget for treatment of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and another N200 million for a review of Nigeria Gas Master Plan.
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Jamila Shuaru, told lawmakers the amount was needed for the treatment of the PIB. But Senator Bassey Akpan, chairman of the committee, pointed out the allocation was not necessary because the bill is already with the National Assembly.
“This could be one of the reasons we have so much deficit in this year’s budget. Unless you can justify this expenditure, we need to do away with this,” he fired.
On the proposed N200 million for review of Nigerian Gas Master Plan, the committee said the item had been a recurring figure in previous budgets.
“You cannot be asking for funds to review what you have not even implemented,” Senator Albert said, adding that the only problem with the PIB was that there was no law backing it up.
Indefinite suspension
These disturbing developments have eaten up into the time frame for completion of consideration for the proposals. The National Assembly had set February 25 for the final work. It however declared it an impossibility considering the enormous clean-up necessary for the document.
These disturbing developments have eaten up into the time frame for completion of consideration for the proposals. The National Assembly had set February 25 for the final work. It however declared it an impossibility considering the enormous clean-up necessary for the document.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, and his House of Representatives counterpart, Jibrin Abdulmumin, said the passage of the drafts into law will have to be suspended indefinitely.
On the whole, some believe the discoveries were in the nation’s best interests as money would be saved and entrenched “rats” prevented from enriching themselves at the expense of the masses.
To them, the development is a massive boost for the anti-corruption stance of the Buhari’s administration. But it is also a great disservice to run the first two months of the year without a working budget at a time the country is undergoing serious recession.
The development has exacerbated cash crunch in the system, resulting in massive job-cuts and stringent tightening by few existing businesses.
Government has tried to absolve itself of any blame in the raging controversies, pointing out that bureaucrats were responsible for the inflation and padding, it is hard to think to differentiate the presidency from the civil service.
Dr Godwin Ahamzie, an economist, said: “Government remains the biggest spender. One expected that they would have tidied up their figures so that there would be money in circulation.
“This administration came on board in May. It had over six months to prepare the budget for us. There is nothing to cheer about that we are just discovering the padded figures.
“It is all an attempt to shift blames and hold others accountable for one’s failures. These discoveries are a big let-down and Nigerians are being made to suffer for it.”
Some contractors, who spoke with our correspondent, said the inability of government to pass the budget and execute projects was counter-productive.
The earlier the administration sorts out the budget controversies and shells out money to run the economy, the better for the nation, they maintained.

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