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2016 budget envelope-based not zero-based – Auditor-General

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The Auditor-General of the Federation, Samuel Ukura, has said the Federal Government’s 2016 Appropriation Bill was envelope-based and not zero-based as believed in some quarters.

Federal government had said the budget was prepared on zero-based template.

Ukura told the Senate Committee on Public Accounts while defending the 2016 budget of his office in Abuja on Thursday that the N2.9 billion proposed for his office for the year was handed down by the Ministry of Finance.

Reminded by the committee that his submission of envelope-based budget was contrary to Federal Government’s position, he said: “This year’s budget is envelope and not zero-based in any way.”

Ukura explained that although the initial intention of the government was to adopt zero-based budgeting as a template, realities on ground compelled the adoption of the usual envelop system.

He said: “Budgets of all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government this year are all envelope-based and not zero-based.

“It has been the case over the years, including that of my office, which is even largely done for us by the supervising ministry.

“It is envelope; the zero-base budgeting they wanted to introduce was not adhered to at the end of the day.

“In zero-base budgeting, it is assumed that such expenditure does not exist; you start from zero and justify why that expenditure must be used.

“So, it is a system which is good and which would have also helped to set targets, but that wasn’t applied at the end of the day, perhaps because it was hurriedly being introduced.

“Budget proposal and by extension, defence, is not about fighting but discussing on what is made available for one to work with.”

The committee questioned why his office had not audited the accounts of the Department of Petroleum Resources, which always budgeted N32 billion for itself and with a staff strength of 1,400.

The committee reminded the auditor-general that the number of staff of DPR was same with his office, which only had a budget of N1.8 billion for recurrent expenditure.

It therefore expressed displeasure with the activities of Ukura’s office, saying that the committee was not impressed with its auditing functions.

Members of the committee wondered why the auditor-general’s office had never raised alarm with all the “graft being perpetrated in various government offices through budget padding of recurrent and overhead votes”.

While taking cognizance of the poor funding of the office, the Chairman of the committee, Andy Uba (PDP Anambra South), charged the auditor-general’s office to be strict in its auditing function.

Uba said it was unacceptable for audit office of the federation to be allocated only N654 million to audit N6.08 trillion budget.

He promised to increase the votes of the office, saying: “If you are not adequately funded, you are exposed to corruption and this committee will not allow that to happen.

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