What to know about budget padding – NDEBUMOG
The Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group provided this explanation on the details of budget planning, as provided by the group’s Executive Director, Dr. George-Hill Anthony
Following our earlier statement concerning the unfolding drama vis a vis denials and arguments by some persons; that budget padding is a part of “normal” legislative privileges, hence, their argument that the matter should be left as in-house legislative matter of the House of Representatives to resolve, we have decided to put fresh facts before the public concerning what budget padding is, its implications for larger society, just to let the public know that such is a fiscal crime against a country and humanity.
• Budget padding is a systemic disease and works like a contagious virus, which has capacity to sully MDA’s expenditure plans and records through procurement maneuverings, data mutilation, audit fragmentation, which affects every citizen, in the first instance. Secondly, it eats up scarce resources, causes syphoning and diversion of resources and poor implementation of appropriation plans. Budget padding is different from “legislative privileges” of nominating constituency projects into the national budget. No one should try to use advocacy jargons to mislead the public. Covetous hypocrisy is a form of corruption.
• Being a feral fiscal disease, budget padding spreads through fiscal lifelines, assisting individuals and agencies responsible for this malfeasances to hijack budget envelopes, distorting expenditure plans and cost templates, thereby; frustrating the core elements of MDAs’ fiscal architecture and projections within the Medium Term Sector Strategies as encapsulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the very law, passed by Nigeria’s National Assembly. At the stage of budget conceptualization through the fiscal forecasts transmitted through the Fiscal Strategy Paper, being a process that captures several bureaucratic corridors of the MDAs, such are usually done with the axiomatic prayers, which says, may the democratic-god stand by this fiscal document, as unto God we commit (you) document, as we (MDAs) transmit thee to the National Assembly… Unfortunately, such fiscal materials are thoroughly abused through shrewd expenditure line tailoring that have put the lives of millions of ordinary citizens in perpetual sufferings, rather than the expected democratic redemption.
• When padding takes place, automatically, several line items have their original cost ballooning beyond actual cost within the MDA’s expenditure plan. Several mutilations take place, leading to sundry “genuine” projects being inserted, irrespective of whether such “projects” were subjected to sectoral strategy cost or not. Crookedly, when such padded items are signed on as national appropriation by Mr. President, the burden of cash for line per items are then passed to respective MDAs, who are compelled, bullied and mandated to award jobs for such padded items, be it; consultancy, services or supplies. Mostly, the padded items are with no needs assessment, beneficiary analysis, expenditure etiquette or sectoral gauge.
• In order to succeed at getting the funds out, various procurement units of the MDAs are subjected to enormous pressure, as they are “normally” expected to “follow” the Procurement Act in the award of the padded jobs. These jobs are normally advertised… This is the stage, where padded “interests” must chase their figures. Many parliamentarians would not also forgive the Speaker; if s/he reshuffles the leadership of various committees without allowing for financial year “oversight” to enable persons concerned to “protect” their padded items within such a fiscal year. NDEBUMOG hopes this is not why Nigerians pay for empty seats during legislative days, with many of the parliamentarians not seated in the chambers. Are they chasing something…What are they chasing outside the chambers?
• Curiously, when the jobs/contracts as “appropriated” are finally “awarded”, a good public expenditure evaluator can weigh-in on the fact of why the lowest bidder may not get jobs/contract as contemplated by the Public Procurement Act, PPA, since the highest “responsive” bids can also get such jobs/contracts. MDAs are further strangulated in the bid to get such contracts and monies out within the tenets of the PPA and thresholds permissible for each agency’s accounting officer. It could be interpreted as a sour point of conflict between legislators, political office holders and top bureaucrats, whose voices have been swallowed by Public Officers Protection Act and Official Secret ghosts.
• Given an abridgment of expectations from legislative oversights, any discerning mind could see serious conflict of interests here, including; why many NASS members hardly make good pro-poor impact with the tool of legislative oversight at their disposal. Nigerians and patriots within the National Assembly, must therefore, unite and not miss this opportunity of using the embarrassing budget padding scandal in the House of Representatives to demand total overhaul of the entire budgetary processes, breaking undemocratic secrecy vis a vis inclusion and alignment of interests of a few persons within the legislature.
• We urge the Executive Arm of government to conduct a pre/post submission situational analysis on the 2016 Appropriation Act; as such, will help to identify actual projections submitted, credible constituency projects included and the padded items in question. Procurement Officers can then conduct cost-integrity checks through their in-house expenditure plans per each envelope to extract evidence for prosecution.
• If the budget processes are not reformed, transformed, opened up, re-jigged, made inclusive all embracing for the interests of citizens whose sense of participation have been ignited through this scam, then the opportunity of redeeming the budget process by our democratic generation is gone…
• The APC as a Political Party should recognize Hon. Abdulmunim Jibrin’s constitutional rights and his entitlement to freedom of speech. Party discipline should not override national interest regarding this monumental leak into corruption. We are convinced that Hon. Jibrin is ready to go to Prison, as there is provision for a N460, 000,000 project –– the Construction of New Satellite Prisons (CoA-NPS0117015758) at Nafada, Bagoro, Kabacha, Tambuwal Gwaram, D/Kudu in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
• Anticorruption agencies, must, therefore, be allowed to do their work concerning the scam in question. However, the matter involves billions of naira and some actor’s political future depends largely on it, hence, the thoroughness that the investigation demand cannot be underplayed. Attempts could also be made to compromise investigators. Nigerians should keep their eyes open! President Muhammadu Buhari should spare no stone in demanding a thorough investigation. This is not about the independence of any arm of government; after all, Mr. President may have signed a compromised budget document against his wish “for Nigeria to move forward.”