Capital expenditure and campaign funding
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, in response to a concerned citizen’s question in Kaduna the other day, assured that money allocated for capital projects in the federal budget will not be diverted to funding political campaign for the next election. Indeed, she said, the administration remains committed to the completion of major ongoing projects. This sounds good except that this government, like the ones before it, is ever so long on expression of ‘commitment’ and ever so short on actual, observable deeds. If this were not so, Nigeria’s level of macroefficiency and development would be, by now, a far happier story.
That the minister should need at all to assure her immediate audience, and by extension the nation that budgetary allocation is safe from diversion to non-productive ends is a sad comment on the level of public distrust of government on the one hand, and the untrustworthiness of government on the other hand. In a saner clime, the possibility of such ‘misapplication’ of public fund would be even inconceivable. Alas, what is aberrant in other lands is normal in these parts. The sordid revelations are still fresh in mind of how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government diverted to its 2015 campaign mindboggling sums, in local and foreign currencies, meant to foster the security and welfare of the people. Meanwhile, critical infrastructure remained largely unattended to and the people continue to suffer the cost of bad roads, irregular power supply, poor health facilities and even poorer educational institutions. The cumulative damage of these is unquantifiable.
It amounts to an economic and social crime to divert capital project funds that are, ab initio, inadequate for the nation’s development needs, into narrow political party purposes. Such act should even count as willful sabotage of national development and for which condign sanction should apply.It is inevitable that political parties need money to function and to compete for offices. In recognition of this, there are established rules in the statute books – the extant constitution, the electoral act as amended and even respective party constitutions, for funding political party activities. Section 225 (2) stipulates that ‘every political party shall submit to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a detailed annual statement and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets together with a similar statement of its expenditure in such forms as the commission may require’.
INEC is empowered by other constitutional provisions to ‘give directions to political parties regarding the books or records of financial transactions…’ and ‘to carry out such investigations as to whether proper books of accounts and proper records have been kept by any political party…’ Article 22 on party finance of the constitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party says that the party shall derive funds from subscription, fees, and levies of members, proceeds from investments, subventions, donations and fund raising, gifts and grants by government, individuals or group of individuals as allowed by law, borrowing as approved by the national executive council, and any other lawful means. The APC manifesto also commits the party to ‘prevent abuse of executive, legislative, and public offices through greater accountability, transparency, and strict enforcement of anti-corruption laws …’ Further, the APC promises to ‘require full disclosure in all media outlets of all government contracts over N100 million prior to award and during implementation at regular intervals’.
The justification for a strict regulation of the funding of political parties includes that public money needs to be protected from public office holders who may, divert by whatever method, such funds to serve party ends. The Public Procurement Act, 2007 is one elaborate piece of legislation aimed at serving this end by ensuring that government gets value for money in its procurement of goods, works, and services. Transparency in party and campaign financing –including delimiting the amounts that can be received from any single source – also protects to a substantial extent, the electoral process and the entire political system from the control of moneybags.
In respect of capital projects, it is noteworthy that, besides the generally low levels of budget execution in recent years, the actual sums expended on capital projects fall far below the sums appropriated. The 2017 budget is a glaring example. It is reported by the budget monitoring group, BudgIT, that of the N2.36 trillion appropriated as capital expenditure, only N377 billion, as against a target of N1.63 trillion, was actually spent on projects nine months into the year. A pertinent question is: what has happened to whatever outstanding balance not disbursed? In comparison – and an indication of the tragic misplacement of priority by government- N4.15 trillion of the N5.58 trillion allocated for recurrent expenditure had been spent within the same period.
Whether diverted or warehoused, it is clear that money not spent as and when due for purposes legally approved constitutes a disservice to the nation by those entrusted with public office. It is unconscionable and an act of corruption. As part of the ‘Change’ which it promised, and also as stated in both its constitution and manifesto, the APC government must abide by its commitments to sourcing for its needed funds by strictly legal means. Public money meant for development projects must go and be seen to go to those projects only.
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