Let me start by saying this: If you offer me a choice between President Buhari and Senator Ben Murray bruce, I would gladly choose Buhari. Reason: I have an idea of , not necessarily agree with, Buhari’s asset declaration form but I don’t have a clue about Ben Bruce’s. However Ben is supposed to be a public officer. He has locked his in the usual room of Nigerian Legalese.
If you tell me to choose between President Buhari and Senator Bukola Saraki, my choice should be very clear. I would choose Buhari anyday for same reason. Bukola’s asset declaration form cannot even be shown in the public view. He would claim a law to back that up. Remember this; we are supposed to be fighting corruption right?
This now takes me to this budget issue, if you have been reading my posts, you would find out that I must be one of the few people who initially suggested that the 2016 Budget be revisited. I predicated my analysis on the fact that the crude oil price has fallen to such an extent to make the budget untenable. The budget then was predicated on $38/barrel but I was so sure that the amount would never be met. I believe that meeting the goal of the budget would mean borrowing or finding an alternate source of income that we don’t presently have.
Now let’s go into how the budget preparation has gone. The Senators pointing out some “internal paddings” of the budget into light. Is this a surprise? I say no. It is no surprise because the Nigerian budget from the time I have learnt how to read budget documents have always been padded. The civil servants in the various ministries, parastatals and other government agencies always do this to their budgets. The budgets are padded, and also “compoundly padded” through all levels till they get to the presidency and then the president(or Governor’s) table. That has been the unfortunate way all along. The corruption system has been so embedded. Buhari cannot change the civil service overnight. He has to work with it.
That is the reasons that many ministries normally have “left-over money” that are only known to the permanent secretaries, director General and the directors as the case may be. They would then inform the minister. That is the reason that a project that cost 1 billion to build last year would be repeated this year on 2 billion naira. It could even be replicated in other “hidden areas” of the same budget. That is the style of budgeting in Nigeria. Forget all the noise.
Have you not wondered why a Permanent secretary who is on a salary of about #400,000/ month is able to send all his 4 kids to high paying universities in the US or UK? How come these guys on the same salary as outlined are able to be proud owners of various 500million naira- billions of naira properties in Lagos and Abuja? They have bank accounts in hundreds of millions that are always being “replenished”. If you doubt what I have said, please pick the last 4 years’ budgets and go through. You would be shocked at the level of “year-in-year-out budget paddings”. It’s a normal use of template.
The truth is; most Presidents and Governors are aware of this. What they resort to do mostly, is to just leave the budget documents in the shelves and deal with the day-to-day-expenditures as they come. They know the overall budget cap, so they would just work within the limit. It now depends on the mind-set of the person in the executive seat. If he is an honest man, the citizens would be assured of people oriented appropriation. However, if not, then wahala dey nor be small. That is the reason $2.1 billion dollars would be given to Dasuki, though it was not in the budget. Jonathan just spent within the Total limit of the Budget. Unfortunately, that is the Nigeria public budget scenario. Can you change that? I very much doubt it I tell you.
What can be done to change this? I will tell you. Let everyone from top to bottom in Government, whether as a political office holder or career civil servant, declare his assets in public. A public declaration of asset is the solution to this because there is incentive to always pad budgets in Nigeria.
We have to admit that Buhari is trying to fight the wanton stealing of government money. However, there is a limit to what he can do in a democratic set-up like ours that eulogises and support public thievery.
Nigeria budget is what it is, a dispensable proposal. A proposal that had about 240 billion naira allocated to fuel subsidy in 2011 but the government ended up spending over 2 trillion naira on the same subsidy in an election year. It all boils down to the President (or governor) monitoring what he released and on what?
Like I said, let everyone(without exception) who has is working for government in whatever capacity declares his asset publicly. Without this, nothing would change.You can’t change the civil service. You can’t change the mentality. We have to live with it…. Ewolewoo!!!
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