Groups highlight N74 billion frivolous items in 2019 budget

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Citizens Wealth Platform have said no fewer than N74.16b items are frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful in the 2019 appropriation bill, now awaiting approval of the National Assembly.

The groups stated this in their sustained yearly vetting of the national budget plan, as they discovered 117 questionable items in a document being distributed among legislators.

Lead Director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, told The Guardian at the weekend that it expects that the pull-out would contribute to scrutiny of the budget by stakeholders, including approval process at the National Assembly.

Lamenting tardiness and recurring issues of non-clarity in the nation’s budgeting process, he listed the proposals by Public Complaints Commission; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); National Judicial Council (NJC); and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), as a violation of the rules.

Besides, virtually all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) got votes for clothing and uniforms worth N3.2b, even when most of them have no need for such items.

The Public Complaints Commission had N4.2b, without details, the same argument that now seeks to compel the National Assembly to disclose details of its budget.

INEC has N45.5b; NJC, Abuja, N110b and NDDC N95.19b. No one is permitted under democracy to spend public funds in a way and manner not known to citizens, who are the ultimate sovereigns,” he said.

He noted that allocations and investments to the Niger Delta region needed to be streamlined, made more transparent and infused with value for money based on ascertained needs of the people.

The NDDC has a vote of N95.1b; Ministry of Niger Delta N41.6b; while the Amnesty Programme has N65b, amounting to N201.7b. The Niger Delta Master Plan should be the basis of budgeting instead of the current uncoordinated approach.

“At the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the North East Development Commission was awarded N10b, when Service Wide Vote of N45b captured same,” he stated.

Programme Officer at CSJ, Martins Eke, also noted that in some instances, MDAs demand specific brand of vehicles, instead of providing for functional specification of vehicles.

“This stultifies competition and value for money in public procurement. And the vehicles frequently demanded are foreign brands that should compete with made in Nigeria brands in accordance with the Executive Order on Local Content in Budgeting and the National Automobile Policy.

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