Following the controversies that trailed the 2016 budget, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, has assured that there is no padding in the 2017 Budget.
He was speaking at a news conference in Abuja on Thursday to clear the air on some issues raised concerning the budget.
Recall that the issue of budget padding in the 2016 appropriation bill was raised by the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who accused Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara and some other principal officers of the House of making illegal insertions into the budget amounting to billions of Naira.
However, the allegations amounted to nothing despite the fact that Jibrin said he had enough evidence to prove the truth of the allegations. On the contrary, it won the Kano lawmaker a 180-day suspension from the lower legislative chamber, and he is yet to return.
Talking with newsmen on Thursday, Akabueze explained that “padding” was a term used to describe unauthorised or undisclosed insertions into the budget, but added: “I can say without equivocation that there is no padding in the 2017 budget proposal.”
The budget office DG said further: “The process of preparing the 2017 budget required MDAs to upload their budgets online by their accredited officers, who were issued access codes to ensure an audit trail of all entries.
“The Chief Executive/Chief Accounting Officers of all MDAs were required to certify their final budget inputs.
“The budget presented to the National Assembly by Mr President was exactly what the MDAs certified,’’ he said.
Akabueze however acknowledged that there were legitimate concerns regarding the difference in prices for the same items.
He explained that the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, was updating its price list, adding that when it is completed, it would be structured into the budget preparation application to make it impossible for various agencies to use the different prices for the same items in the budget.
The budget boss promised that henceforth, the Budget Office and the BPP would work collaboratively to ensure timely review of price lists.
Akabueze pointed out that some items in the budget had been described by some analysts as frivolous, suspicious or wasteful, adding that there are no such things.
He explained that welfare packages usually set aside to support funerals of deceased staff and so on cannot be accurately projected and so MDAs used their best judgement.
With regards to security and cleaning services, Akabueze said that they had been outsourced by the federal government and that there must be provisions to pay the companies that provide those services.
For electricity and utility costs, the budget office DG noted that due to the huge amount of debt incurred by MDAs as a result of unpaid power bills, the FG had directed that adequate provisions be made to enable them pay their bills as and when due.
Akabueze pointed out that the 2017 budget was prepared, using the Zero-Based Budget, ZBB, system which means that every project must be justified each year in order to be included in the budget.
“This does not imply 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 challenges or is still an ongoing project,” he said
Akabueze clarified that some projects that had been described as repetition was not the case.
He explained that the departure from incremental budgeting system to ZBB required that projects were costed at activity level.
He also described as false and non-existent the reported inclusion of N250 million for the construction of gate house in the Vice President’s quarters.
“These items and provisions are not in the 2017 budget proposal’’, he said.
Akabueze said that the proposed budget was an expression of government’s plans to systematically achieve rapid economic recovery and sustained inclusive growth.
He noted that the budget summarised key ingredients of the Nigeria Economic Recovery and growth Plan, NERGP, 2017-2019, building on the strategic implementation plan of the 2016 budget.