…we see a bureaucracy and a ruling class that are more concerned about their perks of office and administrative capital to the neglect off developmental capital which touches the life of all citizens. There is a profound attempt at making simple issues sound esoteric so that many Nigerians will not be able to relate to the budgetary votes.
Budgets are very important instruments for the implementation of national plans and policies and the budget can be described as an economic, political or human rights process. A good budget proposal should be structured around the policy-plan-budget continuum. It should be clear enough, transparently crafted and easy to follow by citizens who are its beneficiaries. It should have an inseparable link with previous expenditure heads in the outgone years, considering that projects and programmes are hardly concluded in one year and as such, continuity in programming is necessary to conclude projects that demand budget votes over a period of years.
Expenditure items in the budget should be tied and traceable to the bigger developmental paradigm guiding the state in terms of plans and policies and the ultimate goal of the common good encapsulated in the security and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government. They should be such that benefit the greater bulk of the over 180 million Nigerian population.
The 2018 federal budget proposal, like the previous federal budgets, continues a tradition that ignores the fundamental rudiments of budgeting. In some states of the federation, budgets contain the proposals and actual expenditures for either the previous year, or two previous years. It thereby gives a sense of direction of what government has been doing that is linked to the proposals for the current and incoming years. This is not so in the federal budget, which simply catalogues projects and awards money to them, without providing clues or rationale that informs the provisions. Merely stating that a project is ongoing, without a funding history, is not good enough. However, the 2018 budget proposal has used codes starting with “ERGP”, which I interpret to mean the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the federal government. But this is simply compliance as to form, to create the impression that all the votes have their foundation in the ERGP. We still have a budget where expenditure heads do not necessarily tie with policies, plans and laws. It is still to an extent a budget with a good dose of frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful expenditure.
We still have a 2018 federal budget proposal where virtually every ministry, department or agency of government is requesting specifically for Toyota Prado SUVs. The first challenge with this is that it is against the rules of public procurement, as dictated by the Public Procurement Act 2007, to insert brand names instead of general functionality attributes into a budget. This forecloses competition and its resulting value for money. The second and most important challenge is that I dare say that no director or head of any MDA actually needs that particular SUV or any SUV at all to run his department. Why should a country that is just coming out of recession and has little or no funds to spend on capital projects be spending about N50 million to buy one vehicle for a mere servant of the people. This is not only wicked and ridiculous, it cannot be justified under the ERGP and thus any attempt to link purchasing a SUV to the ERGP is an exercise in frivolity. In the event they need an SUV, the “Buy Made in Nigeria” campaign demands that they patronise the products of our local vehicle manufacturing and assembly plants, which produce vehicles of comparable quality.
A few posers that no reasonable person can answer, except those bent on turning fiscal governance to a crude joke will show the trend. Why is every MDA requesting for a vote for budget preparation and administration when there is a staff employed in departments that should prepare and run their budgets? Why is the Presidential Air Fleet demanding N298.5 million for subscription to professional bodies? How many persons are in the employment of the Air Fleet and to which professions do they belong? What is so special about the IPSAS accounting management and reporting that every MDA sees it as an opportunity to get money out of the treasury? What specific service, goods, works, construction, etc. is the IPSAS vote to be deployed?
The State House demands N4.86 billion for annual routine maintenance of mechanical/electrical installations at the Villa. The same expenditure item got a similar vote last year. Another N119.86 million is for maintenance of office building and residential quarters at the Villa. The Villa requests for the phased replacement of vehicles, spares and tyres in the presidential, CVU, security/police escort and SH operational fleet for N907 million. The State House needs N120 million for computer software acquisition and this is also a recurring expenditure item over the years. At the State House, Lagos Liaison Office, the sum of N31 million is required for the maintenance of office building/residential quarters and another N145.8 million for rehabilitation/repairs of office buildings. Thus, in the hair splitting attempt to get money out of the treasury, maintenance is differentiated from rehabilitation and repairs. The National Security Adviser demands N1.144 billion for just fumigation and cleaning. For the development of Consumer Protection Regulations, the Consumer Protection Council demands N250 million. What type of regulations requires this much? Even if we include the cost of a few stakeholder forums, this is still a very high demand.
The Ministry of Communication Technology votes N100 million for the establishment of an ICT university. This vote is a waste of public resources. It is too paltry for the purpose. Nigeria does not need a new ICT university. Specially, equipping a faculty in an existing university makes more eminent sense and is in consonance with value for money. To ridicule the idea further, the university gets N100 million, while an incubation hub in the same Ministry got a vote of N150 million! Apparently, we use the budget to make fun of very serious issues and to start the plan for mismanagement and eventual embezzlement of funds. Pray what is the meaning of the expenditure head “Business Enhancement to Improve Competitiveness”; “Transient Job Creation”; “Enterprise Creation for Persons Trained in Technical Skills”; “Job Creation Across the Agricultural Value Chain”? All these are found in the proposal of the National Directorate of Employment and attract a total of N444 million. These are deliberately nebulous provisions that have no activities, services, works, construction and deliverables tied to them. They can only lead to waste and or encourage mismanagement of resources. Nigerians need to know exactly what these votes are to be used for.
In all the foregoing, we see a bureaucracy and a ruling class that are more concerned about their perks of office and administrative capital to the neglect off developmental capital which touches the life of all citizens. There is a profound attempt at making simple issues sound esoteric so that many Nigerians will not be able to relate to the budgetary votes. Underlying all these is an entitlement mentality, where the servant sees himself as the master and as entitled to the fruits of the labour of all. But this can only pass through the National Assembly and get presidential assent if the people decide to sleep over their rights.
Eze Onyekpere is lead director at Centre for Social Justice. Twitter: @censoj