BudgIT Nigeria, a non-government organisation determined to raise the standards of transparency, citizen engagement and accountability, particularly public finance, on Wednesday raised red flags on what it called frivolous items totaling N800.2 million in the 2017 federal budget.
Similar items in the 2016 budget cost a total of N206.9 million, representing an increase of about 286.75%, apart from the N100.8m outstanding balance on acquisition of canteen and kitchen equipment for the banquet hall auditorium and Defence House.
According to a statement by BudgIT Nigeria, “our research team analysed the 2017 Budget proposal and picked out some line items that we think are frivolous. In comparison to the 2016 budget, these line items have increased with no less than 100%.”
This, the civic tech organization believes, is not expected of a government at a time the nation’s economy is in recession among other issues, wondering: “Should the Federal Government be spending this much on (such) items?”
The organization asked for example, the justification for the Federal Government’s plan to spend N100.8 million on payment of outstanding balance on acquired canteen/kitchen equipment, or the 179.9% hike in “residential rent” for the State House Headquarters from N27.7m in 2016 to N77.5m this year; or the 242.9% increase in “cook gas fuel cost” to N21.6m, as against last year’s N6.3m.
Another frivolous item in the 2017 budget of the State House Headquarters is the N123.2m proposed for Food Stuff and Catering Materials from N92.6m; as well as the 177.5% increase in the appropriation for newspapers to N28.3m from N10.2m last year. This means that with 366 days last year, the Federal Government spent N27,868.85 daily on newspapers, which at N200 per copy, means that the Presidency bought an average of 139 newspaper copies daily. This year, the government has proposed to spend N28.3m or N77,534.24 on an average of 387 every day on newspapers.
Another example of frivolous item and noticeable irregularities, in the 2017 budget, BudgIT noted, is the plan to spend N76.4m on “water charges” this year, up by 308.6% from last year’s N18.7m; while “electricity charges” was hiked by 605.5% to N319.6m from N45.3m in 2016; even as “sewage charges” is billed to rise by 765.6% from N6.1% to N52.8m.
Such frivolous items in the budget, it was noted, are also happening when it is noted that the 2017 budget has a revenue projection of N4.94 trillion, while expenditure is expect to be in the region of N7.298 trillion, which translates to a deficit of N2.358 trillion or 32.31%.
This would only mean that the Federal Government is borrowing from the domestic and international financial markets to fund these and many other frivolous expenditure heads this year to be funded by the nation’s commonwealth and tax payers.