By: Bisi Adekunle
The embarrassing discrepancies and obvious padding of the 2016 Budget have claimed it first casualty on Monday as President Muhammadu Buhari fired the Director-General (Budget), Mr. Yahaya Gusau.
Although no reason was given for his sack but observers believed it is to do with the various discrepancies that had been identified in the 2016 budget proposals currently before the National Assembly.
The President also approved the appointment of Mr. Tijjani Abdullahi as a replacement of Yahaya Gusau, who was appointed in August last year.
Mr Abdullahi is a fellow of the Certified National Accountants of Nigeria and a banker.
These were contained in a statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, on Monday. said the new Director-General, Budget, would work with the Minister of Budget and National Planning to efficiently deliver on the mandates of the Budget Office of the Federation.
In a similar vein, Adesina said the President had approved the appointment of Mr. Ben Akabueze as the Special Adviser on Planning to the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
Akabueze, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and also a Honorary Fellow, Institute of Credit Administrators. He’s the immediate past Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos State, is said to have worked in senior management positions in Citi Bank, Fidelity Bank, United Bank for Africa, NAL Merchant Bank, Sterling Bank and BIA Consulting Limited, etc.
Sources in the Presidency had earlier in this month alleged that, a budget mafia planned to scuttle innovations introduced by the current administration into the budget by inflating figures.
It was alleged that the mafia clique proposed a budget of N9.7tn for capital and overhead spending, excluding personnel cost, as against the Presidency’s initial estimate of about N8tn.
The cabal was said to have proposed N3tn as overheads alone out of the N9.7tn, a figure the Presidency later slashed to N163bn.
Meanwhile, the ministry of budget and national planning had also promised to investigate and punish those responsible for the errors and strange figures found in the budget, which was presented to the National Assembly by Buhari in December, 2015.
You will recall that the errors is responsible for the delay in the passage of the budget with the federal legislature saying the February 25 deadline it set for its approval was no more feasible.
The Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, asserts that, with the current developments, the February 25 deadline earlier giving for the passage is no longer realistic.
A source in the Presidency who claimed that the mafia was responsible for the controversial provisions in the eventual N6.07tn budget sent to the National Assembly by the Presidency, added, “These bureaucrats also proposed to spend N2.1tn on personnel for the 2016 estimate compared to about N1.8tn in the 2015 budget.’’
Following the revelation, the Federal Government, it was learnt, would soon commence an investigation to determine the roles played by permanent secretaries, directors and budget officers in MDAs in the padding of the budget.
It is also gathered from top government officials that the probe, which is expected to commence any time from now, would also be extended to assistant directors, deputy directors and other top-level officers in agencies of government.
It was learnt that the investigation, to be carried out by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. would assist in unravelling the mystery surrounding the padding of the budget.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) stated in Abuja while unveiling a report that analyzed the 2016 budget on Monday that, the 2016 budget contained N668.8bn expenditure that was “frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful”.
Speaking on the report, the Lead Director of CSJ, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, said the fiscal document should be reviewed in order to remove all the expenditure that would not impact positively on the lives of the people.
He further said it had become a tradition among Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government to make allowance for unnecessary expenditure in the budget.
He stated that, some of them are purchase of vehicles, welfare packages, software, computers, uniforms and clothing, refreshment and meals and subscription to professional bodies.
Others items listed by the CSJ are, maintenance of office building/residential quarters, budget preparation, rents and absence of price database.
Giving a breakdown of some of the expenses that made up the unclear expenditure, Onyekpere said for the State House, for instance, the sum of N3.91bn was allocated to annual reporting maintenance of Villa facilities while N618.6m was budgeted for installation of electrical fittings.
Other expenses that the group considered as wasteful are N272m for upgrade of mechanical power line, N322.4m for linking of cable to drivers’ restroom at the Villa and N213.8m for linking of cable from the Guest House to generator house.
He added, “Despite the provision for the maintenance of Villa facilities, this huge sum is being considered for the same location.
He laments that, “The Villa Guest House and facilities have already taken so much. These seem to be a play on words around electricity for the sum of N1.83bn.
“These cannot be priorities for Nigeria in these lean times. This is incredible and should be reduced by 70 per cent.”
On the huge amount budgeted for vehicles, the group urged the National Assembly to demand an inventory of all existing vehicles in the MDAs before considering such requests.
The report said, “Purchase of (motor) vehicles is a common request across many MDAs. How do we determine genuine from frivolous requests?
“Should NASS demand an inventory of existing vehicles? There is a need for justification before every approval. The demand for vehicles is even specifically tied to some foreign brands.
“This is wrong under the Public Procurement Act as only the functional specification of a product should be in the budget.”
The group believed that rather than spending these funds for the procurement of these items, they should be re-channelled to other productive sectors of the economy.
The report added, “A total of N668.88bn has been identified as resources to be saved and re-programmed. We hope the National Assembly will do the needful and reprogramme these resources for the public good.”