Addressing journalists on the estimates in the 2017 budget, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, Facilitator CWP, called on the National Assembly to undertake a thorough scrutiny of the budget document so as to eliminate the frivolities and wasteful estimates in the document. Onyekpere argued that total savings of N145.907 billion would be recorded by the country if the wasteful items are expunged. For instance, he maintained that the budget template appeared to be the same for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDA, irrespective of their mandate and area of specialization, making them to ask for everything under the sun, whether they are needed or not. Duplicated expenses According to him, some expenses are duplicated in the estimates while many budget heads are so unclear that their purpose is only known to the crafters of the budget. In general, Onyekpere disclosed that in the entire budget document, about N5.452 billion was earmarked for welfare packages, despite the fact that huge sum of money had been allocated for personnel expenses. He also stated that N9.525 billion was budgeted for computer software acquisitions and N4.303 billion for the purchase of computers, irrespective of the fact that almost the same sum was budgeted for the same purpose in the 2016 budget; while N1.14 billion was budgeted for annual budget expenses and administration, wondering why such amount would be earmarked for such purpose. He said, “Some MDAs play on words which at the end of the day means that money may be drawn from the treasury for nebulous purposes. In some instances, monitoring and evaluation is stated under different names and ends up with a very bogus vote — as happened in the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.” He noted that many of the projects listed in the budget are without location that can facilitate stakeholders’ monitoring and follow up, adding that issues like subscription to professional bodies seemed to be abused across majority of the MDAs. Specifically, he pinpointed that the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation demanded N237.9 million for subscription to professional bodies, wondering the justification for the amount, relative to the number of staff that work in the Office. Who’s landlord of State House Again, Onyekpere questioned the allocation of N77.546 for ‘Residential Rent’ under the estimates for State House Headquarters, stating that there is the need to clarify the proposed estimate, especially as to who is the landlord of the State House. In the Budget of the Federal Ministry of Health, He identified some questionable items such as the allocation of N6.64 billion for ‘Governance and Institutional Reforms; N2.03 billion for ‘Operation Cost of the Programme. He said, “There is need for clear and sufficient specification as to what this ‘Governance and Institutional Reforms stand for and also what the ‘Operation Cost’ stands for.” Veterinary Institute to plant trees for N98m He also questioned the rationale behind the allocation of N97.67 million for tree planting by the National veterinary Research Institute, Vom, stating that, “It appears that tree planting is not part of the mandate of a veterinary research institute. Also the tree planting location is not stated.” Budget Office takes N101 for budget expenses He wondered why N101.53 million would be assigned by the Budget Office of the Federation as ‘Annual Budget Expenses and Administration’, stating that,” the idea of special vote for the main job definition of the Budget Office of the Federation is strange. “What exactly is the vote for? It is like a special vote for law making in the legislature. I would recommend that this item be scrapped and the sum be saved.” Also, in the Budget Office, N287.24 million and N70 million were earmarked for ‘Governance and Institutional Reforms’ and ‘Purchase of desktop computers, laptops, photocopiers, printers, scanners and shredding machines.’” He said, “The annual ritual of demanding computers and software, bloated refreshment and meals, purchase of vehicles is still the norm. Every MDA wants a vote for annual budget expenses and administration after provisions have been made for their personnel costs which should have covered this demand. “There is a demand for new vehicles without an explanation of what happened to the pool of existing vehicles. To worsen matters, MDAs are breaking the public procurement rules by demanding specific brands of foreign cars at a time the leadership of the executive and legislature are championing the Buy Made in Nigeria campaign.”

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