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Retooling the budget process

ONE of the sacred collaborative duties of the executive and legislative arms of government at the federal level is the preparation, passage and endorsement of the budget of the Federal Government.

It was in that direction that President Muhammadu Buhari on December 22, 2015 laid before the National Assembly his proposals for a N6.08 trillion spending plan for the Federal Government in 2016.

Inevitably, the late presentation of the spending proposal and the required Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, helped to delay consideration of the budget by the National Assembly till after the Yuletide holidays.

Just before the National Assembly commenced hearings on it, the budget went missing, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Senator Ita Enang, was accused of doctoring it.

Following the rapprochement after the alleged doctoring of the budget, expectations were that the process of approving the budget would be fast-tracked.

Alas, that expectation has now been put off following continuing revelations by both administration officials and the legislators of inherent defects in the spending plan now before the National Assembly. In fact, the said “paddings” prompted the Chairmen of Appropriation Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, Senator Danjuma Goje and Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin to announce last week the indefinite suspension of the possible passage date of the budget from February 25, 2016.

In one particularly instructive case, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole disowned as fake, the spending plan of his ministry presented before the National Assembly.

This, coming against revelations of the perceived determination of an institutionalised “budget cabal” to influence the budget towards satisfying selfish interests calls for concern.

The long time it took President Buhari to fully establish his government after his inauguration is obviously taking its toll on governance as a whole. We risk losing a whole year to the delay. That delay led to a situation where ministers were barely familiar with their ministries before being made to defend budgets prepared by bureaucrats.

However, the situation on ground is more than what meets the eye and is indicative of a defective bureaucracy determined to sustain the odious system that has made annual budgets of the Federal Government to have little impact on the citizenry.

That is reflected by news reports of the repetitive provisions of items as computers, motor vehicles and a number of items in annual budgets.

Given the promise of change that ushered in the present administration, the unfolding developments are undoubtedly embarrassing.

The public is waiting to see how President Buhari treats the bureaucrats that corruptly attempted to sabotage the budget. We hope he will send a strong message that this will no longer be tolerated now or in the future.


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