The Presidency on Sunday stated that it will welcome “well-meaning criticism” of its policies, budget and expenditure.
Reacting to the mounting criticism of some controversial allocation in the 2016 Appropriation Bill currently being debated by the National Assembly, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement that criticism is the only way the Muhammadu Buhari administration will achieve the change promised Nigerian.
He said copies of the budget were at the National Assembly and the website of the budget office and Nigerians who are interested can read it with a view of making observations.
However, in what is his second response to a report by PREMIUM TIMES that the 2016 budget proposal, currently being debated at the National Assembly, allocated more funds for capital projects at the State House Medical Centre than all teaching hospitals in the country, Mr. Shehu said the budget office confirmed that more money was allocated to the teaching hospitals than the State House hospital.
“In reaction to a newspaper story that said: “2016 Budget: Buhari to spend more on State House Clinic than on all federal government-owned teaching hospitals,” the Budget Office supplied a summary of the allocations to the various sectors under the Ministry of Health, which showed clearly that the published story was inaccurate. The budget office has affirmed that in terms of both capital and recurrent allocations, the draft budget has put far more money in the 17 teaching hospitals than it did in the State House Clinic,” he said.
As explained after the original statement by Mr Shehu, PREMIUM TIMES maintains that at no time did our story compared both recurrent and capital allocations to the teaching hospitals with those of the State House clinic. Our report specifically compared the allocation for capital projects of the State House clinic to allocation for capital projects of the teaching hospitals.
Just like we stated in our story, we maintain that the presidency proposed to spend more on capital projects at the State House clinic than it proposed to spend in all teaching hospitals combined.
Budget not perfect
In the statement, Mr. Shehu admitted that the budget may contain some imperfection and that the government is open to corrections from Nigerian.
“We are not by any stretch of imagination suggesting that the draft budget is beyond comments or reproach. Nor do we wish to dwell on this simply to make a point.
“To do that will drive away good citizens from pointing out needed corrections and, ultimately defeating the change mantra of the administration,” he said.
“The budget is a Nigerian budget and citizens reserve the right to examine its content and provide their own perspectives.
“As the draft goes through the approval process, this and many other aspects will continue to generate interest, criticism, commendation and sometimes condemnation in discussions in the parliament, the media and the court of public opinion. We believe that the process of “change” will be affected by, and stands to gain from these debates especially where there is good faith on all sides.
“Government has no reason whatsoever to mislead the citizens on the budget and on all other matters for whatever reason,” he added.