2016 budget: The political subversions
IT is no longer news that 2016 Appropriation Bill is turning out to be unnecessarily controversial. It had barely survived the argument over whether it is genuine or fake when it was engulfed in even more serious allegation of padding, an allusion that extraneous matters were corruptly introduced into it.
Almost all the ministers who have so far appeared before the National Assembly to defend their input into the bill have had to complain that something was not right with the figures. The legislators, on their own, have come out openly to say that there are a lot of discrepancies that needed to be reconciled and for this reason, they had to renege on an earlier pledge to pass the bill towards the end of February. The date is now indefinite.
Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume said the budget proposal couldn’t be missing from the National Assembly, stressing that the discrepancies that engendered the controversy surrounding the budget proposal cannot be overemphasised.
He said: “The Appropriation Bill presented by President Muhammadu Buhari had not changed irrespective of the versions of the bill in existence.
“There were issues that came after surrounding the budget process which people disagreed as to how or whether it was done properly. And when the President presented the bill, the details went through what we normally call integrity check, then therefore, it came out with, of course, naturally, some differences between the ones that was first submitted and the one that was produced at the end of the integrity check.”
Senator Kabiru Marafa claimed that even the controversies rocking the 2016 budget in the Senate since January were in very logical ways, linked to the pending trial of the Senate President, Alhaji Bukola Saraki at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) through the aides of fifth columnists shouting at different times that Budget was missing, budget has been doctored, budget was padded and can no longer be passed as earlier planned.
Within the same period of the alleged budget padding, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun threw another bombshell that about 23,000 Civil Servants have been discovered through the implementation of Biometric Verification Number (BVN) to be receiving multiple salaries. Among this group, the Minister reportedly revealed that one of them was collecting the salaries of 20 persons using fictitious names. These ones can be termed as salary racketeers.
What it means is that those responsible for this embarrassing development are not faceless, they are operating within the system possibly as a syndicate with tentacles spread throughout the maze of the entire civil service bureaucracy.
This sadly, is happening despite the measures being put in place by President Muhammadu Buhari to effectively check corruption and illicit acts likely to humiliate the smooth running of the administration.
Also, the Auditor General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura informed the Senate at the budget defence that the N6.08trillion budget proposal was an enveloped based budget and not zero-based. He told the Senator Andy Uba-led Committee that the zero-based budget was ‘hurriedly introduced’ by the Budget Office, resulting in some problems. Hence it was jettisoned.
The Auditor General said while the zero-based budget was applied theoretically, in practical terms, the status quo, envelope budgeting was maintained. Citing an example, he said the N2.9billion budget estimates of his office in this year’s proposal, was handed over to them as an envelope by the Budget Office.
Meanwhile, senators were shocked when the Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, disowned the 2016 Budget document, raising the alarm that it was not acceptable to him because the original document had been distorted and strange figures smuggled in.
Similarly, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed disowned his ministry’s budgetary allocation of N398 million for purchase of computers.
The chairman of the Committee, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said, “The difference between N5million and N168m is huge.”
However, whatever has led to the bizarre budget padding tragedy must now be put to a permanent stop, considering the embarrassment the incident has brought to the nation, it’s government, people and institutions as well as the big question it has also put on the sustained fight against the canker worm of corruption.
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