*Decry Corruption Loopholes, Infractions, Seeks Urgent Amendment
BudgIT, a foremost civic-tech organisation leading the advocacy for fiscal transparency and accountability in Nigeria, on Thursday, March 17, 2022, says a total of 6,576 capital projects were actually generated and inserted into the this year’s federal budget by the National Assembly, without putting a value, following a further analysis of the document by its research team.
The group, in a statement by Iyanu Fatoba , Acting Head, Media and Communications, lamented that the insertions of these projects is among other critical causes for concern, infractions and corruption loopholes, hence the need for a review. This, it added, is besides the fact that they bloated the budgets of various federal ministries, contributing further to a breach of the budget ceiling safeguards announced by the Budget Office of the Federation on August 19, 2021.
It expressed “valid concerns on whether the Project Design Documents (PDD) were created as required by the 2022 Budget Public Investment Guidelines,” warning that a poorly designed and costed public sector project is almost destined to fail ab initio and lead to poor value for money for taxpayers, while also expressing concern about the timeframe for delivery of these projects.
Recall that BudgIT’s preliminary analysis of the 21,108 capital projects in the 2022 approved budget revealed 460 duplicated projects amounting to N378.9bn.
In the statement which followed the publication of its2022 Federal Government Budget Analysis Consultative Memo titled Leveraging Budget Reforms for Economic Development, BudgIT identified some projects linked to Ministries Departments and Agencies that lacked the mandate to execute them, but are directly linked to the leadership of the legislative arm of government.
A case in point, according to the statement by BudgIT, “is the cumulative allocation of N1.45bn to the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institution and Nigerian Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation in Ilorin, Kwara State, to construct the “Femi Gbajabiamila Public Junior Secondary School, Itire, Ikate,” noting that both agencies in Kwara State have no expertise to supervise the construction or staffing of a school in Lagos State when the country has a Federal Ministry of Education.
Another, it said, “is the allocation of N1bn to the Nigerian Institute of Marine and Oceanography to install street lights in Delta Central Senatorial District, represented by Hon. Ovie Omo-Agege, the deputy Senate President.
While speaking on capital budget padding, Gabriel Okeowo, BudgIT’s Country Director, equally lamented the fact that “several projects do not meet the definition for capital expenditures according to the Fiscal Responsibility Act.”
An example, he continued, is the “N5.6bn allocated to over 150 meetings, conferences, and board meetings listed as capital expenditures across different MDAs.
“Another case is the N28m allocated to the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture-headquarters, for Quarterly Interaction with foreign media/PR lobby in its capital budget.”
Also worrisome, BudgIT continued, “is the federal government’s selective opacity in its budget transparency as it concerns certain agencies that have been indicted for fraud, emphasizing the case of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigeria Customs Service, Galaxy Backbone, amongst many others, whose budgets for the period were entirely missing from the 2022 approved budget, while that of “the Niger Delta Development Commission—although included in the 2022 approved budget, has no breakdown of capital expenditure.”
“It is no gainsaying that the National Assembly must demonstrate a stronger commitment to publishing, vetting and appraising the budget proposal from the Executive and their agencies, especially using feedback from the country’s Auditor General to assess allocations to agencies involved in misappropriations, extra-budgetary allocations, and other forms of corruption in the previous years.
“Furthermore, there is an urgent need for the amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007, before the National Assembly, to be given a speeding hearing and corresponding presidential assent to empower the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to enforce fiscal discipline. Nigeria currently loses trillions of naira in revenues due to MDAs breaching provisions of the FRA 2007,” the statement added,
Also, BudgIT says it is aware that the budget is currently with the National Assembly for review, calling on the citizens, Civil Society Organisations, the private sector, and the international community to urgently prevail on the National Assembly and Presidency to immediately redress and eliminate these violations in the 2022 approved federal budget to ensure public funds work for all Nigerians and not for a privileged few politicians.