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End these budget embarrassments

On Wednesday, November 23, 2016, the Senate once again rejected the Federal Government’s draft budget for 2017. In addition, they condemned the 2017 to 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) as well as the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) which accompanied it. Many of the lawmakers were also in support of sending the entire MTEF package back to the Presidency.

Only the intervention of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, saved the President Muhammadu Buhari government from the embarrassment of having yet another document being thrown back at it by the National legislature.  Only last month, the President’s $30 billion loan request was summarily turned down for lack of diligent packaging.

They were all returned because the lawmakers were confronted with requests that lacked the requisite details for decision making. A ranking Senator dismissed the MTEF sent to his committee as being “empty”. Senator Abiodun Olujimi best summarised the problem when she observed that the document showed “the incompetence of those who prepared (it).”

President Buhari’s failure to select his Economic Management Team (EMT) until five months after assumption of office was rationalised by his aides as an attempt to avoid mistakes. Yet, the 2016 budget from the Presidency was riddled with so many errors that the National Assembly promptly returned it to sender.

After one year of working with a group of ministers, the time has come for the President to carry out a total rejig of his government and (especially) the Economic/Budget teams. Enough of these shows of shame.

The Head of Buhari’s EMT, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is an eminent lawyer, but not an economist. Buhari must put square pegs in square holes for us to have improvements in the packaging of financial proposals for the assent of the Legislature and understanding of the global financial community. He needs experts who understand what the job entails. This team has been tested and repeatedly found wanting.

It is a pity that, in spite of the presence of a seasoned legislator like Senator Ita Enang around President Buhari, these incompetent documents are not put right before they leave the President’s desk for the National Assembly.

We urge the National Assembly to insist that policy papers and their implementation plans when approved, must meet the minimum standard of best practices always.

 


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