Tuesday, 3 March 2015

REVEALED: Government’s annual budget is N20tn, not N4.3tn

The House of Reps said on Sunday that the Federal Government’s yearly expenditure was “over N20tn,” contrary to the N4.6tn (2014) or N4.3tn (2015) disclosed as the country’s annual public budget.

The House  Public Accounts Committee, which made the disclosure, noted that an ongoing examination of the finances of government and its 601 agencies showed that the N4.3tn given as the total spending budget for this year was a “far cry” from the reality.

The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Adeola Solomon-Olamilekan, who spoke on the issue, explained that, unknown to Nigerians, the N4.3tn, for example, did not include the expenditure of many “statutory and extra-ministerial departments” of government.

The lawmaker put the budget of these other bodies at over N16tn.

He added that his committee found out that these other agencies not captured in the regular budget, generated and spent their money as it pleased them without seeking the approval of the National Assembly.

Solomon-Olamilekan explained further, “The N4.9tn, N4.6tn or N4.3tn, as the case may be, is the budget that the whole Nigerians are listening to but in the true sense of it, the budget of other statutory and extra-ministerial departments put together is about N16tn.

“So, the total overall budget year in year out is over N20tn, which the executive arm operates, but nobody is asking questions as to the implementation of all these budgets.

“Nobody is bringing information on the implementation of all these budgets; and this is one area Nigerians need to start asking questions in order to move this country forward.”

Solomon-Olamilekan stated that though the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, made adequate provisions on how these bodies should be held accountable, the law was observed in breach.

He cited the “stifling” of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation as one of the ways to shield government agencies from opening their books to scrutiny.

Solomon-Olamilekan said this was done by starving the office of funds “over the years” to a point where it no longer had the financial power to effectively audit the accounts of the implementation agencies of government and its extra-ministerial departments.

For instance, he revealed how the government cut the capital budget of the AGF’ office from N1.9bn to a “meagre” N100m in 2015.

The lawmaker said his committee was at a loss on how the AGF’s office would audit the accounts of 601 agencies with N100m and the country’s 144 foreign missions.

The PAC chairman added, “How can we imagine that the capital budget of the office of AGF for the year 2015 was reduced from N1.9bn to N100?

“Can you also imagine an office of the AGF that has 144 foreign missions to audit and as we speak, between 1999 to date, that office has not audited up to 30 of these foreign missions while three quarter of these foreign missions are also revenue generating agencies?

“So, there is nobody to audit the revenue generated and the expenditure they incur.

“The office of the AGF has been short-changed and the budget has been reduced to nothing. As such, the government of the day is having a field day to carry out whatever its wants to do because they know they have an office that is not functioning.”

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