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Groups seek probe of N1.2tr NASS budgets, propose N53b plan

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National Assembly Complex Abuja.

Civil society groups and experts have called for the probe of N1.15 trillion received by the National Assembly between 2005 and 2014, with the view to making it public.

They also expressed concerns that since 2010, NASS has spent about $3.3 billion (N1.01 trillion at subsisting official exchange rate) without recourse to transparency and public information.

This is coming just as failed attempts to enthrone accountability and transparency in the use of public funds over the years, is creating doubts on their commitments and claims over the anti-corruption war.

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A coalition of individuals and organisations, Enough Is Enough Nigeria (EiENigeria) and BudgIT, while lamenting the long years of opaque budget system in the country, said the latest increase in the budget of the National Assembly from the proposed N115 billion to N125 billion is worrisome.

Nigerians who responded to the “#OpenNASS Datathon” study have proposed the reduction of the 2017 NASS budget from N125 billion, to N52.5 billion. The study by BudgIT and EiENigeria, which was in response to the publication of the 2017 National Assembly budget, has as its objective, the development of an effective budget as a standard to reducing the cost of governance.

In reaching the sum proposed, participants took into account all affiliated institutions, overhead costs, maintenance costs, personnel, research costs and all the line items contained in the 2017 National Assembly Budget.

Co-Founder of BudgIT, Oluseun Onigbinde, said: “Our request for the details of the National Assembly budget has always been about improving public sector efficiency and the image of the institution as the highest organ of accountability.

“We will continue to advocate transparency in all government establishments to craft a more democratic society that protects the interest of its people and values citizen engagement,” he said.

He noted that the NASS should now replace voice voting with electronic voting and should work with the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Committee (RMAFC) to review and reduce the salaries and allowances of legislators.

According to the Project Manager for the study, Damisola Akolade-Yilu, certain items were stripped from the budget for various reasons including duplication of line items and repurchase of already existing items like cars and furniture which, from publicly available information, were included in the 2016 National Assembly Budget.

The participants argued that several overhead items, which accounted for 50 per cent of the National Assembly budget can be centralised in the General Services Unit for efficiency, as publicly available knowledge of the current prices of proposed items in the free market is obvious.

Executive Director of OJA Development Consult, Jide Ojo, said the call for the audit of NASS is timely and ‘’I identify with it, especially as the Federal Government is pushing for transparency and accountability in public finance management.’’

But the Lead Director of Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said it is obvious that the budget for NASS is over estimated and out of touch with the current economic crisis that the country is going through.


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