RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE 2015 FEDERAL BUDGET ESTIMATES
(Inappropriate, Unclear and Wasteful Expenditure)
CITZENS WEALTH PLATFORM (CWP)
Centre for Social Justice Ltd by Guarantee
(Mainstreaming Social Justice in Public Life)
Citizens Wealth Platform (CWP) is a group of non-governmental and faith based organisations, professional associations and other citizens groups dedicated to ensuring that public resources are made to work and be of benefit to all. In accordance with our tradition, we have compiled this list of inappropriate, unclear and wasteful federal expenditure proposals in the 2015 Budget. We seek to engage the system from the vantage position of empirical evidence and previous experiences which have led our nation to the present fiscal crisis. The objective is to contribute to reforms in the system and improvements in the livelihood of majority of Nigerians.
The price of crude oil on which Nigeria depends for about 80% of her federal revenue has taken a nose dive in the international oil market. From over $100 per barrel, oil now sells for less than $50 per barrel. In response to this situation, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy had announced austerity measures and Nigerians have been told to tighten their belts. Part of the expenditure reduction measures include savings on recurrent expenditure especially overheads and reductions in provisions for administrative capital. However, there are still a lot of gaps and frivolous expenditures have found their way into the budget. Nigerians can easily adjust to the reduced revenue and expenditure but they want their leaders to show the way and lead by example. In this respect, we urge the Presidency and the National Assembly to have pity on Nigerians; lighten our yoke and reduce their expenditure. Especially, we urge the National Assembly to reduce its vote by 50% to N75billion only.
There seems to be structural challenges with the budget preparation process. The template sent to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for budget preparation seems to be deficient. It does not differentiate between MDAs considering their statutory duties and peculiarities. Thus, every MDA must ask for a vote for security services, uniforms, printing of security and non security documents, maintenance of IT equipment and all manner of consultancy services. MDAs ask for a vote for welfare after they have made full provisions for the salaries and remuneration of their staff. Pray, what manner of welfare is this that is not covered by the staff remuneration? There are provisions for medical expenses and supplies after full provisions have been made for contributions to the National Health Insurance Scheme. In a period of austerity, MDAs still dedicate millions of naira to the repair of office furniture. But how much do you need to buy new furniture? MDAs demand money for refreshment and meals as if they are running a restaurant chain while requests are perpetually made for purchase of library books in an anti-intellectual environment. Nigeria still intends to pay for pilgrimages against the constitutional bar on adopting state religion. We have graduated to a system where every MDA votes money for budget preparation and administration while maintain accounts and finance departments and employing qualified accountants and other professionals. The old story of “seeds”, “seedlings”, “improved seeds”, “fertiliser”, “organic fertiliser”, “inorganic fertiliser”, etc repeated ad nauseam continues as the Ministry of Agriculture displays impunity and insensitivity in its way and manner of budgeting.
Contrary to the advice of the Oronsaye Committee, Service Wide Votes continue to be used as a slush fund duplicating expenses that should properly be domiciled in MDAs. Beyond this, the vote is used through a play on words to request for expenses that have no bearing on the welfare of the people; for example, what is a request for subscription to professional bodies in the sum of N208m doing in the SWV after MDAs have made their respective request? Where is the location of the projects that have been receiving funding over the years as “Special Intervention Projects” under the MDGs? Is there no terminal date for the Amnesty Programme that continues to gulp billions of naira every year? Evidently, the administration has abandoned the planning system of medium term sector strategies to inform the medium term expenditure framework leading to the budget. There seems to be no connection between the expenditure priorities and high level national development plans.
The leadership in the executive and legislature need to start fiscal adjustments. A new budgeting framework is needed starting from a new template that takes cognisance of the peculiarities of MDAs, reduction of waste and frivolity and evidence based budgeting. We need to redefine our budget and tie it to improvements in the human development and other relevant indexes.
Eze Onyekpere Esq.
PROPOSED SAVINGS IN THE 2015 FEDERAL BUDGET
The sum of N304,573,835,128 (Three Hundred and Four Billion, Five Hundred and Seventy Three Million, Eight Hundred and Thirty Five Thousand, One Hundred and Twenty Eight Naira) Only has been identified as possible savings from the 2015 federal budget proposal. This sum is merely indicative of what can be saved. We did not exhaust all the possibilities by going through all the agencies under the respective Ministries. The National Assembly is enjoined, in the spirit of the austerity measures and the legislative oath of office to use a tooth pick and comb approach to review all the proposals and identify more wastes and monies that can be saved.
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