Despite receiving N700bn in 2017, power, agriculture, other ministries hide details of expenditure

Babatunde Raji Fashola
Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola

The ministries of power, works and housing; education, health, agriculture, and water resources received over N700 billion from N1.58 trillion released by the Federal government for capital projects in the 2017 budget but have failed to make the spending details public.

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, announced recently that N1.6 trillion was released to Ministries, Departments and Agencies for financing capital projects in the 2017 federal budget.

The breakdown of the capital released for the MDAs was revealed in a document obtained by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent to the Ministry of Finance.

The approved 2017 budget had N7.44 trillion, out of which N2.99 trillion was for non-debt recurrent spending, while N2.36 trillion was budgeted for capital expenditure.

The PTCIJ, through its social accountability project, UDEME, wrote to Ministry of Finance to request for details of capital project expenditure.

POWER MINISTRY, ACCOUNTANT GENERAL, TRANSPORT MINISTRY, OTHERS

In its reply to the FOI, the ministry official disclosed that N1.6 trillion was released for capital projects in 2017.

The amount represents 21 per cent of the N7.4 trillion 2017 budget. This is higher than the N1.2 trillion released for 2016 which was 18.4 per cent of the N6.6 trillion 2016 approved budget.

In the 2017 capital releases, the ministry of power, works and housing and its agencies received the highest allocation of N465 billion, followed by the Office of the Accountant General which got N216 billion. The transport ministry got N90.7 billion for capital projects.

The ministry of budget and national planning got N57.8 billion, ministry of agriculture got N54.1 billion while the ministry of water resources got N36.5 billion.

The ministry of health received N33.5 billion and the office of the senior special assistant to the President on sustainable development received N30.7 billion for implementation of capital projects.

Detailed breakdown of these releases on MDA basis can be viewed here.

POWER MINISTRY, OTHERS FAIL TO RELEASE DETAILS OF CAPITAL SPENDING

The Freedom of Information Act, 2011 requires all “information relating to the receipts or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution to be widely disseminated and made readily available”.

PTCIJ made FOI requests to the ministry of power, works and housing, ministry of agriculture, ministry of water resources, ministry of education, Universal Basic Education Commission, and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) requesting for details of capital projects expenditure from the 2017 funds received.

None of them has replied the letters several weeks later in violation of the FOI law.

Three letters were written to the ministry of power but none was replied even though it received at least 30 per cent of the capital releases.

The refusal of the ministries to release details of their expenditure was condemned by Adetokumbo Mumuni, the Executive Director of a civic group, SERAP.

“It is not whether a government agency gets the highest capital allocation or not, that is not the issue. The FOI Act states that once you make a submission to a particular officer or institution, you’re allowed to make a request for it and they must give you, if they don’t give you, you go to court for it.

“It doesn’t matter, even if they don’t get allocation at all, once you’re a public citizen or the person becomes a public officer, you’re bound to honour your request,” he said.

For Hamzat Lawal, the chief executive of Connected Development, the opaque nature of the ministries’ funds utilisation should not be tolerated.

“Government officials are not open, secrecy exits in this government regarding public expenditure. The sad part is now we are a laughing stock in the international community; people don’t take us serious anymore.

“When we say we’ve signed the Open Government Partnership, people just laugh at us and say you stand on something that you didn’t take even take close to your heart,” he said.

Mr Lawal suggested the failure to release details of the fund utilisation may be because the funds were not properly spent.

“I tell you, if we could go underground and investigate, we will not see projects commensurable with that N1.6 trillion that has been released in the budget for capital expenditure.

“If you go and feel the heartbeat of the people at the grassroots, you will not see value for this money that is owned by the people which is quite sad. This government came into power saying that they are going to tackle corruption and they are going to ensure that they are transparent and accountable, but so far, the reality is proving otherwise,” he said.

The activist, whose group, also monitors government expenditure at the grassroots said he believes the onus lies on President Muhammadu Buhari.

“President Muhammadu Buhari needs to show a political will and call his ministers to order; give the presidential directive for them to respect the rule of law and respect the Freedom of Information Act, which is part of Nigeria’s Constitution.

“No one is above the law and once the president shows that no one is truly above the law, then for once, maybe, we will get it get it right in this country.”

To view the detail breakdown of the N1.58 trillion capital expenditure, click here to see tables.


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