By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The failure of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to present its 2016 Budget proposals to the National Assembly, less than one and a half months to the end of the current Fiscal Year is a demonstration of its unpreparedness for governance, the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice, CSJ, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, has said.
He spoke at the roundtable meeting on Budget Transparency and Public Engagement in Budget Process, following the release of the Open Budget Survey 2015, in Abuja , yesterday.
“That the executive has not presented the 2016 budget to the National Assembly until now shows the unpreparedness of the current administration in matters of governance”, Mr. Onyekpere said.
He noted that by the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission Act, 2007, the reviewed Medium Term Economic Framework, MTEF, should have been approved by the National Assembly, and that the 2016 budget should have almost been passed by the legislature, by now.
His words, “Right now , we don’t have the MTEF to underpin the budget and we don’t have the budget. The implication is that the budget is going to be presented very late and it may not be ready until the end of the first quarter of 2016, which has been the usual tradition. The implications are not funny for the administration of the Nigerian people.
That means that the capital budget will be delayed and by the time they approve it in March, April or May, it will be raining season and all out-door constructions will stop.
“So we are continuing the cycle of poor capital budget implementation and of course that would mean addressing less of the needs of the Nigerian people who are suffering infrastructure deficit and also attending to less of the poor because the majority of Nigerians are poor and the budget is expected to address their needs.”
What to do
Mr. Onyekpere who is a budget enthusiast said that the federal government should hurry up the preparation of the budget and present it to the NASS since it has already lost a lot of time with a view to seeing what could be in an already bad situation.
“They should give it to the NASS before the Christmas and New Year break, so that they can complete work on it before the end of the first quarter of next year,” he said
Recurrent/Capital budgets imbalance
On the lopsidedness of the federal government budget against capital votes, the CSJ boss said that it would remain a major challenge for the Buhari team, considering the fact that the bulk of the recurrent goes to personnel cost, but that it should think on how to improve the funding of capital expenditure through saving a lot of money by plugging every leakage and using other sources of funding outside of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
In a message, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, called for a greater public participation in the budget process as according to him, “a budget should not be a secret instrument” and that the CBN would be glad to see Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, actively participate in both the budget preparations process and implementation monitoring.
Mr. Emefiele who was represented by the Director, Finance Department, Mrs. Tope Omage, said, “for a budget to be effective, it must be approved before the period which it is to be implemented,” and that the CBN would play sufficiently its roles in the implementation of the federal government budget.
Also speaking, Engr. Babatunde Kuye who stood in for the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, Engr. Emeka Eze said that the organization saved the federal government over N650 billion in inflated contracts between 2012 and 2014.