Senators, on Monday, queried the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, over what they described as certain frivolous items captured in the 2017 budget of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.
The Senators who spoke when the Head of Service appeared before the Senate committee on Establishment and Public Service, wondered why the same items are repeated in the budget yearly.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Emmanuel Paulker, for instance, probed the repetition of purchase of computers in the yearly budgets of MDAs. He asked if the old computers were usually thrown away every year.
He queried: “We have purchase of computers, photocopy machines and software acquisition. Why do we have the acquisition of computers year in, year out.
“In the 2016 budget, there was a provision for this same purpose. Here, we are talking about the same provision. Do you throw away the old computers?
“We cannot continue to appropriate the same amount of money. For us to consider the budget, we need to have everything in its entirety.
“Something is wrong with this budget defense. If we must look at the budget, we need to have the breakdown. If they do not have what we want, they should return another day.”
He also queried the relevance of training institutes under the Head of Service of the Federation. He said rather than send civil servants abroad for training, the different training institutes in the country should be used.
The lawmaker said: “In the 2016 budget, provisions were made for the various training centres across the country. What are these centres doing with all the allocations they have received in the past? The civil service has the infrastructure. Why can’t they use them for training?”
Deputy chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, accused lawmakers of creating new leakages through which they siphon government’s funds. He said for a government which rode to power on the promise of change, it was wrong to repeat mistakes of the past.
“It has become more perpetual in this government that civil servants find ways to create avenues to make more money for themselves. This is a government of change and I need to understand how a government wants to block loopholes and there are still things like this.
“We had the same problem in last year’s budget. For instance, the Ministry of Labour and Employment budgeted money for anti-corruption and training of staff on HIV/AIDS. What is their business with that. I need to understand. Do we have to start blocking these things as a Senate?” he said.
Head of Service, Mrs Ita, defended the budget. She said unlike other African countries, Nigerian civil servants are not motivated to perform their roles effectively.
“Some of these items are never funded. The items are imported. Because of the inflation, prices have gone up in the international market.
“In a country like South Africa, the government motivates civil servants. That way, they come up with ways to cut costs. When they do that, they are rewarded. But we do not have such an arrangement in Nigeria,” she said.
By Ehisuan Odia….
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