Just when we thought padding, particularly in the executive, has become a thing of the past following the somewhat harsh sacking of those found guilty of padding the 2016 budget, allegations of padding are now rearing their ugly heads again. This time, in the 2017 budget.
The 2017 budget is reported to contain lines of frivolous expenditures, overblown figures, and repetitious items that would gulp millions and billions of public funds. For instance, sewage bill which was a little over 6 million in 2016 is proposed as over 52 million naira in the 2017 budget. The budget public hearing organised by the Senate has so far shown us that the presidency has no office that scrutinises budgets submitted by ministries. All the budget office does is to collate figures from the ministries, calculate and forward to the house. The same way it has always been done. We thought we were going to have a real change.
As the public hearing on the 2017 budget submitted by the president enters its final moments, more revelations as regards frivolous items and reckless lines of expenditure continue to trend. The latest of such is the discovery of a 2 billion naira regional housing in the proposed budget of the ministry of works, power, and housing. The unfortunate part of the event was when the Minister of Power, Works, and Housing stated, unequivocally, that he knows nothing about the figures. How come?
It beats one’s imagination to think that a coordinating head of a ministry knows not everything about a budget he assented to. The minister, Babatunde Fashola, knew the figure was there but he did not bother to question the purpose of insertion. Things like this get people sacked in saner climes.
The event of Fasola’s poor knowledge of his own budget is just one of the several dubious lines of the 2017 budget. After two days of hearing, the total of over 150 billion naira has so far been outlined as saveable if the frivolous expenditures are removed from the budget.
Aside Fasola, the state house appears to be leading the race for the constituent with the most frivolous items. A particular amount of 77,545,700 million naira is budgeted as Residential Rent to be paid to either a ghost landlord or the presidency. In other words, the presidency budgeted 77 million naira to be paid to itself as residential rent. If there would be any explanation for that, it would be that the fund is to cater for the outstanding payment of a rent prior to the federal government moving to Aso rock. But since such reason is non-existent, the presidency needs to provide the landlord of the State House.
In the same budget, there is an outrageous 100 million naira and above budgeted for kitchen equipment when over 80 million naira was budgeted for the same line item just about a year ago. In a number of the ministries, there is a constant line of sitting allowance which can hardly be explained.
The office of the Secretary General of the federation Babachir Lawal, who still has a case of corruption to answer, budgeted over 900 million naira for welfare packages, subscription to professional bodies and computer software acquisition, despite the fact that these items are already catered for in the personnel vote. Besides, they were included in the 2016 budget
This mere fact that the second budget of this administration is filled with money-gulping and entirely needless lines of expenditure after so much promise of change shows we have a long way to go as a country. If the presidency cannot present a clear, defendable, nonrepetitious budget, how then does it want to pull the assembly, a house of self-made gods, to reveal the details of its own spending?