The Federal Government on Thursday replied those claiming that the 2017 budget proposal was filled with frivolous and unclear expenditure, stating that the fiscal document in its current form was not padded.
The Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze, made the clarification while addressing journalists in Abuja on some of the grey areas in the 2017 budget proposal.
He said while some comments about the budget in various quarters had shown that many Nigerians were interested in the programmes of government as captured in the budget, some of these comments revealed inadequate understanding of the budget process.
Akabueze gave some of the grey areas where a lot of people had shown inadequate understanding as the annual budget preparation and administration expenses; differential prices for same items; frivolous, suspicious or wasteful expenditure; line items description and details; non-existent provisions; and budget padding.
Others are welfare package, security and cleaning services, electricity and other utility costs.
He said while some had claimed that padding was back in the 2017 budget, the government had prior to the commencement of the budget process put in place checks to discourage such a practice.
The director-general said, “The 2017 budget proposal, which is currently being considered by the National Assembly, was prepared using the zero-based budgeting system, which simply requires that every project and programme must be justified each year for inclusion in the budget.
“This does not mean that projects captured in the previous year’s budget will not feature in the current proposal, especially if the project was not implemented due to funding challenge or is still an ongoing project.
“Some have alleged that padding is back in the 2017 budget. I can say without equivocation that there is no padding in the 2017 budget proposal. The process of preparing the budget required Ministries, Department and Agencies to upload their budgets online by their accredited officers, who were issued access codes to ensure audit trail of all entries.
“The chief executive or chief accounting officers of all the MDAs were required to certify their final budgets. The budget presented to the National Assembly by Mr. President was exactly what the MDAs certified.”
When asked why the MDAs used differential prices for same items during the preparation of their respective budgets, Akabueze said going forward; the budget office would work with the Bureau of Public Procurement to ensure timely review of price lists.
He stated, “The BPP is updating its price list, which will be structured in the budget preparation application to make it impossible for different agencies to use different prices for same items in the budget.
“However, regardless of what price any MDA uses in its budget, ultimately the BPP determines the applicable price for each procurement.
When it comes to construction projects, it is possible for different rates to apply, depending on the physical terrain and security situation.”
Responding to claims that some of the items in the budget such as welfare packages, security and cleaning expenses, electricity and other utility costs are frivolous and wasteful, Akabueze said while such provisions were necessary, the amounts budgeted for them were not significant.
For instance, in the area of welfare package, he said such provisions were to cater for items such as support for funeral of deceased staff, seasonal gifts and incentives to workers, among others.
“Given their nature (welfare packages), it is not possible to accurately project them; and so, the MDAs use their best judgement.
However, if you divide the amount by the number of staff in each MDA, the resultant amount cannot be termed as excessive,” the director-general stated.
When asked to comment on controversies surrounding the N2bn claimed to have been inserted into the budget of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing by the Ministry of Finance, Akabueze said the amount was captured in the budget for the mass housing scheme of the government.
This, according to him, is an initiative of the Minister of Finance but will be private sector-driven and implemented by the housing arm of the Power, Works and Housing ministry.