Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze, has refuted allegations that figures were inserted into the 2017 budget proposal before the National Assembly
Addressing the media in Abuja on Thursday, Akabueze said his office had been inundated with series comments suggesting that like the 2016 Budget, the current budget proposal for 2017 had equally been padded.
Hear him: “I can say without equivocations that there is no padding in the 2017 budget proposal.
“The process of preparing the 2017 budget required MDAs to upload their budgets online by their accredited officers, who were issued access codes to ensure an audit trail of all entries.
“The Chief Executive/Chief Accounting Officers of all MDAs were required to certify their final budget inputs.
“The budget presented to the National Assembly by Mr President was exactly what the MDAs certified.”
He also said that there was a valid concern about difference in prices for the same items, adding that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) was updating its price list.
It will be recalled that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatubde Fashola, at the Senate Committee on Housing sitting in early February, 2017 denied having knowledge of the sum of N2 billion found in his ministry’s proposal.
This was later found to have been from either the Office of the Budget or Ministry of Finance.
But Akabueze at the briefing said that the price list when updated would be structured into the budget preparation application to make it impossible for various agencies to use the different prices for the same items in the budget.
He added that going forward, the Budget Office and the BPP would work collaboratively to ensure timely review of price lists.
Akabueze said that various commentaries had termed some expenditure as frivolous, suspicious or wasteful, but that no item should be regarded as such.
He said that for welfare packages set aside to cater for support for funerals of deceased staff and so on, it was impossible to accurately project them and so MDAs used their best judgement.
For security and cleaning services, he said that the Federal Government had outsourced them and that there must be provisions to pay the companies that provided those services.
On how the budget proposal will impact on electricity and other utilities, confirmed the Federal Government has been bedeviled with unpaid bills by MDAs, hence ab adequate provision made for such by the government.
He said that the 2017 budget was prepared, using the Zero-Based Budget (ZBB) system which required that every project/programme must be justified each year for inclusion in the budget.
The DG said that some people had queried the description of some projects as repetition, explaining that it was not a defect, and that the departure from incremental budgeting system to ZBB required that projects were costed at activity level.
He also said that there were reports in the budget which were non-existent such as the N250 million for the construction of gate house in the Vice President’s quarters.
“These items and provisions are not in the 2017 budget proposal’’, he said.
He said that there was a claim that the provision for annual budget expenses and administration appeared multiple times in the budget of different MDAs.
He, however, said that there were over 800 MDAs all of which must make provisions for expenses related to the budget exercise.
“Someone simply aggregated the budgets of the Budget Office, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the provisions made by receptive MDAs for budget preparation and administration.
“They described the total of N5.41 billion as cost of preparing the budget. But this is not correct and reflects a lack of appreciation of the full scope of responsibilities of the budget office and its parent Ministry of Budget and National Planning.’’
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