Of Buhari’s 2016 budget of frivolities (1).

Budgets focus on incorporating plans, policies and programmes into the available resource envelope for the achievement of national and state objectives. It is about prioritisation and putting first things first. This is more so when at the federal level, the government has adopted a zero-based budgeting system. This discourse will review aspects of the 2016 federal budget to determine if the usual practice of frivolous, wasteful and inappropriate expenditure has been weeded out from the system. The old practice of repetitive budgeting and wasteful expenditure, to an extent, was partly responsible for the poor budgetary outcomes over the years.

The review must begin from the topmost echelons of government which gives the indicators of leadership by example and provides general systemic direction for the rest of spending agencies. The expectation is for spending agencies to follow the lead of the Presidency and the National Assembly. The 2016 budget still made provisions that are curious and do not show proper prioritisation of expenditure. In the following lines, the code is first stated followed by the line item and the sum of money. Provisions are made for the following at the State House Headquarters: 22021007 for welfare packages in the sum of N107.252m; 23010120 for the purchase of Canteen/Kitchen Equipment in the sum of N89.172m; and 23020119 for construction/provisions of recreational facilities in the sum of N764.671m. The following posers arise from these three expenditure proposals: What happened to all the kitchen and canteen equipment bought under the President Goodluck Jonathan era? Should kitchen equipment bought with hundreds of millions of naira be abandoned by a new President while for voting money for new ones? Even if we are equipping the kitchen anew, what kind of equipment will cost that much?

To vote N764.671m for mere recreation facilities at a time many Nigerians are going to bed hungry is not only insensitive but a sign of callousness. What manner of recreational equipment will cost that much? How much is usually spent by private sector operators who set up recreational facilities and charge fees for profit if we are using this sum just for the recreation of a few? It has always been the position of this writer that welfare packages are unknown to Nigerian statutory and constitutional jurisprudence. After personnel, overhead and capital votes, Nigerian budgets now devise another line item which is not only nebulous but frivolous and wasteful called “welfare package”. Can someone tell me the law or policy that backs this waste which eventually creates room for fraud?

In 23030102, which is for rehabilitation and repairs of electricity, the sum of N1,652,416,807 is provided; 23040103 is for wildlife conservation in the sum of N326,084,876; while 23050102 is for computer software acquisition in the sum of N268,900,000. Again, SH011015224 is for general renovation of “the guest house” in the sum of N387,980,200; SH012015227 is for complete furnishing of the entire rooms in the guest house in the sum of N45,000,000. What is wildlife conservation in the State House that demandsN326.084m? Is it that wild life conservation is more important than Nigerian lives? The Presidency assumes that all Nigerians know about the guest house which needs over N387m for general renovation which is distinct from N45m needed for complete furnishing of the entire rooms. What an “austere” budget! The computer software joke which has been repeated ad nauseam by previous administrations comes handy in the sum of N268.9m. Various sums have been budgeted by previous administrations for rehabilitation and repairs at the State House; for specific electricity repairs to demand so much implies that either the sums earlier budgeted were not invested or the current demand is excessive. SH04015171 is for the upgrading of mechanical and electrical underground power line supplies to the State House in the sum of N272,646,891 whilst SH04015173 is for linking of cable to driver’s rest room at Villa admin in the sum of N322,421,971. SH04015179 is for linking of cable from guest house NO.9 Generator House to Gate in the sum of N213,873,953. There are also further sums in SH04015181 for the installation of electrical lightings and fittings in the sum of N618,604,265 whilst SH04015183 is for electrical installation of distribution boards and other cables in the sum of N191,592,132. Is it true that the electrical installations in the State House need a complete overhaul or replacement?

Moving to the next level of frivolities is SH06015187 which is specifically for the purchase of BMW saloon cars at the cost of N3.63bn. SH07015190 is for the purchase of 33-seater coaster buses at the cost of N158,000,000 whilst SH07015192 is for the purchase of 16-seater Toyota Hiace coaster buses at N204m. The first matter arising from this is that in the recent media chat of the President, the impression was given that no vehicle purchases were planned at the State House. But this apparently contradicts that position. The second is that the way and manner the demand for these vehicles are stated seem to rubbish extant policies and question the patriotic instincts of the persons and institutions making the demand. The Federal Government has been championing the “Buy Made in Nigeria goods and services” and should use public procurement to show the way. Assuming that the Federal Government has a legitimate need for cars and buses, it will not only be outrageous but unpatriotic for any government official to abandon vehicles made in or assembled in Nigeria (from Peugeot, Innoson and Volkswagen, etc) and seek legislative authority to patronise foreign brands. This is the same government championing an auto policy that seeks to improve our capacity in the automobile industry. If government fails to patronise the local auto industry, who will?

For the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, there are a few curious line items as follows: 22021007 is for welfare packages in the sum of N823,267,218; 23010128 is for the purchase of security equipment in the sum of N1,710,322,610 whilst SGF23014243 is for rehabilitation and repairs of electrical components in the sum of N396,795,997. The obviously abnormal welfare package is so large while electricity repair rears its ugly head again after the provisions in the Presidency. When over N1.7bn is stated to be for the purchase of unnamed security equipment, are we not laying the foundation for another big scam. It would have made sense to define what is being bought with so much money. The office of the Economic Adviser to the President has various sums of money for office furniture, purchase of computers, computer printers, scanners, shredding machines and photocopiers. This raises the poser; what happened to the equipments used by the previous occupant of the office? Was there a clear-out and disposal of all existing equipment so that the new occupant needs to start de novo to acquire basic office equipments?

As usual and despite claims that the National Assembly is about to open up, we still have a lump sum statement of N115bn as the vote of the National Assembly. But it is in the short and long term interest of NASS not to tempt and dare Nigerians any further. It must open up its vote if it wishes to be taken seriously by right minded persons.

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