The Buhari administration has been very embarrassed by criticisms that have greeted the proposed 2016 budget, and has vowed to deal with top civil servants responsible for smuggling frivolous allocations into the budget, a senior administration official within the presidency has told PREMIUM TIMES.
According to the official, those involved in the fraudulent padding of the costs of budgeted items, or wholesale injection of questionable line items into the proposed budget, face imminent sack.
The source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said top civil servants who have constituted themselves into a “budget mafia” were responsible for inserting over-priced line items into the budget, thereby exposing the presidency to ridicule.
Besides its huge deficit, the 2016 budget proposal has been widely criticised for its failure to depart from a well-known tradition of wasteful allocation of funds that characterised past budgets.
Several news reports have shown the proposed budget to be replete with over-priced allocations, repetitions of line items and spendings surprisingly skewed to the advantage of top government officials.
On Tuesday, a PREMIUM TIMES’ analysis of the budget revealed that the administration proposed to spend more on capital projects at the State House Medical Centre, than it would spend on all 16 university teaching hospitals in Nigeria.
The presidency proposed to spend N3.87 billion on capital projects at the hospital, which is only used by the families of the President and Vice President, their personal staff and few privileged government officials. The amount is N787million more than the cumulative capital allocation to all 16 teaching hospitals.
According to the report, from the outset, the top bureaucrats, who are adept in “systemic corrupt practices” were bent on scuttling the President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed financial prudence during the preparation of the budget.
“After learning that the presidency was considering a large budget of possibly N8 trillion in order to significantly increase capital expenditure, bureaucrats brought a proposal of N9.7 Trillion for overhead and capital spending even without personnel spending,” the source said.
“Of the proposed N9.7 Trillion, the bureaucrats planned to spend an alarming N3 Trillion on overhead alone, but the presidency eventually slashed this to N163B lower by 8% than 2015 budget which was N177B, indicating massive cut of some of the main provisions by the Buhari presidency.
“Bureaucrats also proposed to spend N2.1 Trillion on personnel for the 2016 estimates compared to about N1.8 Trillion in the 2015 budget. But the presidency also cut this down to N1.7 Trillion in the final estimates sent to the legislature.”
According to the source, despite efforts by the president to cut out the excesses in the budget, these “Budget Mafia” were relentless in their resolve to smuggle in dubious items into the budget.
“The situation and its fallout were so bad that it provoked the annoyance of the president who nonetheless kept his cool buying time so as to meet the target date for the presentation of the budget in line with extant laws and regulations governing the budget process.
“For weeks after the minister was sworn in, the bureaucrats kept planning on the old budget model, stalling the decision to use the Zero-Based Budget until the new Minister found out from the presidency. This stalling led to the waste of valuable time and sources said the bureaucrats had calculated that once time becomes of essence, the presidency would be forced to abandon the Zero-Based Budget.
“However, the presidency regrouped the budget planning efforts around the concept of Zero-Based Budget by early December when the Budget Minister now aware of the Zero-Based Budget took control and leadership of the process.
“Experts and consultants disclosed over the weekend that even after that some of the bureaucrats did not cooperate taking longer than required time to come back with revisions to their estimates that were recommended and ratified by the presidency. In the process many of the provisions already marked down for revision simply got snuck in, effectively pushing the presidency in the defensive in the backlash in the public arena.”