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President Buhari blames ‘Budget Mafia’ for inflated figures


Some top officials of the federal government may lose their jobs for allegedly attempting to inflate the 2016 budget by over N1.7trillion, Elombah.com has learnt. The budget which was briefly declared missing the senate has been generally described by Nigerians as fraudulent. For Instance The VIP unit of the presidential hospital will receive N705 million, while an entire teaching hospital will get about N300 million for new projects.

‘…. they are going to renovate the villa with N3.9 Billion, …. a budget that moves spending within Aso Villa from N580 million to N1.7 Billion …. a budget that increases spending solely on borrowing, …. I want to please, urge this government to withdraw this budget’ – Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe.

Sources inside Aso Rock said the unnamed officials are said to have embarrassed the Presidency by smuggling into the budget proposals such items as vote for Aso Rock Clinic and some communication equipment.

Most of those affected belong to the “Budget Mafia” in the civil service, which has been uncovered by the presidency.  The list of all the culprits was being compiled last night following a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari. 

The Budget Mafia, sources said last night, decided to jack up the budget proposal by N1.7trillion after learning that the budget for this year would be in the region of N8trillion. The presidency also discovered that the civil servants recommended N3 trillion for overhead alone.

This has now been slashed to N163billion as against the N177billion last year.

The mafia was said to have been shocked when  Buhari opted for a N6.08trillion budget, which was presented to the National Assembly on December 22, 2015.

Elombah.com had reported that President Muhammadu Buhari last month wrote to the Nationally Assembly to formally request the withdrawal of the 2016 Appropriation Bill he had presented to a joint session of the federal legislature on December 22 for corrections.

The formal request followed controversy over the alleged secret extraction and doctoring of the original budget document. The controversy over the budget had raged all through last month, as the legislators prepared to begin deliberation on the budget.

It emerged that the budget saga, which became the source of an ever-growing confusion, arose from Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang’s alleged adoption of a sneaky approach in the pursuit of amending the budget.

It was gathered that Buhari had discovered after presenting the 2016 budget to the National Assembly that some of the figures proposed for operations in the Presidency and the State House were being publicly criticised as outrageous and higher than those of his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan. Given Buhari’s austere nature and the change agenda of his party, the figures for the subheads in the budget for the office of the president, vice president, and a few ministries, which went viral on the social media and had become a major topic of discussion on both the print and broadcast media, were a huge embarrassment.

To reflect the public mood, the president was said to have directed the recall of the 2016 budget from the National Assembly for review. Ordinarily, the review process should have entailed a written request from the president to the National Assembly calling for the withdrawal of the budget. But Enang, allegedly, embarked on a surreptitious process of changing the budget figures, which went awry.  

The senate had at its plenary in January accused Enang of doctoring the contents of the 2016 Appropriation Bill presented to the National Assembly by Buhari. “What he distributed is different from what was presented by Mr. President and we have resolved not to address any version until we receive the version presented by Mr. President,” Saraki announced to the senators after an executive session that dwelled on a strange confusion about the substitution of the budget, which had raged since Monday. Enang’s indictment followed an investigation by the ethics and privileges committee of the senate.

Government sources are now saying that the top civil servants in the “Budget Mafia” almost scuttled the preparation of the budget because of the inclusion of many extraneous items. Some of the 6,000 items in the 2016 Budget were said to have been smuggled into the proposals by the cartel.

The padding of the 2016 Appropriation by the affected top civil servants almost marred the presentation of the estimates to the National Assembly, sources said last night.

“Some top civil servants sabotaged the presidency by including extraneous items in the 2016 Budget. Members of the Budget Mafia are spread across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.”

“When the budget was being compiled, they frustrated all the deadlines set by the presidency. Despite the vigilance of Buhari and his cabinet, it was embarrassing to the government to hear of some smuggled items. Bureaucratic resistance and entrenched systemic corrupt practices dogged every move of the presidency to produce proposals reflecting financial prudence and frugality, during the preparation of the 2016 Budget now before the National Assembly.

“For instance, 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.

“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 N177billion, indicating massive cut of some of the main provisions by the Buhari presidency.

“These 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.”

Another source, who played a key role in the final filtration of the budget, said the “smuggling of some items angered President Buhari. He added: “Some people were so bent on exploiting the system that the time was simply not sufficient to stop them but since the budget is only an estimate, the implementation part now offers the presidency the opportunity to tame the corrupt intentions and practices.

“Many of the controversial provisions in the budget were essentially smuggled-in by what was described as “the Budget Mafia” in the civil service, made up of people who consider the period of budgeting as their time of massive opportunity to arrange the stealing of public funds.

“Even the process of costing some of the expenditures was also encumbered when the agency of government responsible for maintaining a price reference list -the Bureau of Public Procurement -was not ready with an updated list, maintaining instead a list prepared in 2013. Experts said the list ought to be updated quarterly.

“Many of the provisions that have drawn the ire of the public managed to sail through the budget with more than 6000 items in all because supervision was made even more difficult with the uncooperative attitude of the senior bureaucrats and their subordinates who were themselves expected to be involved in the supervisory process

“While the President stands for prudence and against waste, those controversial provisions clearly don’t represent these presidential standards.”

A third source in the presidency confirmed that some top civil servants will be sacked by the President. He said: “Several top civil servants involved in the resistance would be fired soon.

“Many of the officials involved are living in fear of being sacked considering the public reactions to many of the controversial provisions which were not cleared by the presidency.

“At that point, the sack of some of the arrow-heads of this resistance was considered but the counsel to be careful in dealing with them prevailed so as not to truncate the process that has been in place already.”

The source gave an insight into the conspiracy by the top civil servants against Buhari’s government.

He said: “The presidency engaged the skills of experts with required capacity to help in the budgeting process, especially with the  adoption of the Zero-Based Budgeting as against the usual envelope and incremental system used in years past by the federal government.

The Presidency, had also last week denied reports that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is proposing to spend N3.87 billion on capital projects at the State House Medical Centre, Aso Rock, Abuja.

ABOVE PHOTO: President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

Senior Special Adviser to the President on (Media and Publicity), Garba Shehu in a statement curiously explained that the State House Clinic is not the President’s or anyone’s personal clinic but one which looks after government officials and others. Though everyone knows the clinic is only for the use of occupants at the villa.

Earlier reports available to Elombah.com had claimed the federal government will this year pump more cash into constructing an elite wing of the presidential clinic in Abuja where only a few big and mighty will receive attention, a spending that dwarfs the total funds allocated by government for entire developmental projects of two federal university teaching hospitals.

Under the proposed 2014 budget laid to the National Assembly last December, the “Construction of a VIP Wing at the State House Clinic will cost N705 million.”

That amount surpasses the government’s budgeted cost for the building of new wards (buildings), laboratories and all other developmental projects in two university teaching hospitals.

The skewed allocations are only the latest revelation from Nigeria’s scandalous national budget, tainted for years by spending plans that provide more funding for services available to a few powerful public officials, from the president and his ministers to federal lawmakers, while relatively little go to those that should benefit the public.

But according to Garba Shehu, increased spending on government health institutions in the current budget should be seen in the light of President Buhari  administration’s plan to improve medical facilities at home, as well as discourage medical tourism by citizens which impact negatively on the country’s foreign reserve.

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