Former Minister, Essien accuses MDAs of incessant budget duplications

Mr. Essien says there are lots of loopholes in the budgeting processes.
Former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Nduese Essien, has accused Federal Government’s ministries, departments and agencies of incessant duplication of items in national budgets.
Mr. Essien, who was reviewing the performance of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, insisted that the MDA’s should be blamed for the poor implantation of budgets in Nigeria.
The same view was expressed on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday by Babafemi Ojudu, during the Second Reading of the 2014 Appropriation Bill.
Mr. Ojudu, representing Ekiti Central zone, had drawn the attention of his colleagues to the repetitions in the 2012 and 2013 budgets as well as in the 2014 proposal.
The lawmaker, therefore, accused the Budget Office of copying the two previous budgets word-for-word without making any alteration, adding that there was no creativity in the budgetary process
But Mr. Essien, a former member of the House of Representatives, who was appointed minister by Mr. Jonathan from April 2010 – May 2011, said there was need for the overhaul of the national budgetary process.
Having served in both the national legislature and at the Federal Executive Council, FEC, Mr. Essien, said there were a lot of loopholes in the processes.
Since national budgets are always prepared in a hurry, he said the MDAs cashed in on the situation to introduce outrageous provisions into the fiscal document.
He insisted that year-in year-out, several items in the recurrent and overhead votes are repeated with slight increases, a situation he said robbed the country of funds for capital projects.
Mr. Essien said the outrageous provisions include but not restricted to local and international travels, overseas training, conferences, maintenance of equipment, among other allocations.
“What I have found out is that the budgetary process in the MDAs is not being taken seriously by those who prepare it,” the former minister said. “Firstly, the notice to prepare and the timeframe for submission of the proposal are usually inadequate.
“Most often, with the same format of previous years, the MDAs repeat the same items that were in previous budgets, year-in-and-year-out with an agreed percentage map up to contain price increases.
“The shoddy attitude in the preparation of the budget often results in unnecessary duplication of items and the inclusion of outrageous provisions for such areas as local and international travel, conferences, overseas training, maintenance of equipment, etc.
“That’s why you find that in most cases, the recurrent votes and the overheads continue to increase yearly, leaving very little for capital projects.”
He, therefore, blamed the slow pace of development in the country on the high budgetary provisions for recurrent expenditure and overheads at the expense of capital votes.
“As long as we continue to have a budget where recurrent expenditure and overheads are far higher than the capital votes, we will continue to witness slow pace of growth in every sector of the national economy.
“Government should find ways of reducing its recurrent and overhead votes while increasing the capital votes to benefit majority of the population. We cannot continue to service minority needs at the expense of the majority,” he said.
Mr. Essien also wondered why the recurrent votes and overheads are always funded and utilised in full while the capital votes are always inadequately funded and not fully utilised.
He, therefore, advised the relevant agency of government to consider a total overhaul of the budgetary process with a view to checking the excesses of the MDAs.
 Again, he called for early preparation and presentation of budget proposals to the National Assembly for proper scrutiny and timely passage.
“The legislature sees the budget for the first time when it is presented to it in the chamber and in the process of attempting to provide for their constituencies, they disorganise the original document and mutilate the figures,” Mr. Essien said.
“It would be most helpful, if the input of the legislature is obtained when the budget is being prepared to ease the process. With pressure from the executive and the public to pass the budget, the legislature is often stampeded into letting go without satisfaction. This happens almost every year.  There is a serious need for the Economic Team to take a critical look at the budgetary process.”

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