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Halting vehicle purchase for public officers

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A recent plan by the Federal Government to stop vehicle purchase and flippant spending on capital projects appears laudable on the face of it but falls far short of an expected broad range of cost-cutting measures expected of the government in a post-COVID-19 era.

The decision has been underlined as part of the government’s newly approved N2.3 trillion Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP), a 12-month transition plan between the current Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and a future economic plan. This is in view of the fact that the ERGP covers only the 2017-2020 period. Part of the intervention efforts of the NESP, as articulated in the document includes interventions in agriculture, infrastructure, informal sector and MSME support, technology and support for state governments among others. The stoppage of the purchase of certain types of vehicles is only a component of the plan.

The articulation of this NESP implies the extension of the Integrated Personnel and Payment Information System (IPPIS) to all Federal Government ministries, departments and agencies over its life span as well as cut non-critical and administrative capital expenditure including the purchase of vehicles except ambulances, fire fighting vehicles and other essentials.

The now controversial employment of 1000 young Nigerians for three months, in each of the 774 local government areas of the country in a massive public works programme is another part of the NESP. Questions have been raised by many stakeholders as to the necessity of such a humongous public works programme with some calling it a huge waste of public resources, with the budgeted funds likely to be cornered by political jobbers and politicians to the detriment of the poor youth. This may well be another waste of public resources. Hence, the question as to whether the controversial public works is of any meaningful value to the economy is in the public domain.

Even the process leading to the actualisation of the programme has become more controversial. Does the economy really need such a bogus project, which may likely benefit the politicians through corrupt implementation schemes with very little impact on the poor youths for which it was designed? In this era of COVID-19, cost-cutting measures beyond the proposed temporary stoppage of vehicle purchase are what the economy requires.

Cost cutting measures in governance should go beyond the stopping of the purchase of vehicles for public officers. There are so many areas of waste at all the tiers of government in Nigeria. The question arises as to whether this stoppage of vehicle purchase is the most critical item government and the authorities should stop buying? The presidency is still maintaining a large fleet of aircraft in the Presidential Fleet.

Security votes of unimaginable proportions are still being doled out to service the offices of the president and the governors across the 36 states of the federation. The ministers still arm-twist heads of various agencies under their ministries to buy, rent and equip houses for them. The heads of agencies in their ministries use dubious sub-heads to cover up this scam. What of our foreign missions we don’t need? Does the country need the number of embassies it currently operates across the world?

Lots of items, even in the already approved and revised 2020 federal budget, should have been subject to drastic cuts. It is regrettable that in spite of the damaging effects of COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy, the president appears proud to sign the newly revised 2020 budget on Friday, July 10, 2020, with a budget size of a whooping N10.8 trillion – even higher than the originally approved budget of about N10.5 trillion before the COVID-19 pandemic. Does this not sound obnoxious? How can the government propose to spend more when oil price and revenues have fallen than when oil price and revenues are high? Does this make economic sense? A drastic cut in the size of the budget should have been a critical priority in these trying times. Does it mean the country is still comfortable with the bogus salaries, wages and other emoluments of the political office holders in the Federal Government and across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory?

Finally, as a nation, the question should be asked whether a bi-cameral legislature is still sustainable in this period of economic emergency. Other nations have taken a second look at their governance structure and made meaningful amendments to salvage their ailing economies. A case in point is nearby Senegal, which transited from a bi-cameral to a uni-cameral legislature. So many areas of cost-cutting exist beyond the stoppage of the purchase of certain categories of vehicles. As a matter of urgency, the government at all levels should take a second look at its governance structure and do the needful at this time: reform for efficiency. And so, filling the gap in government revenues by unnecessary borrowing, as the government seems to be doing, is not the right way out of the woods.


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