By Onwuka Gerald
BudgIT, a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement, to facilitate societal change has observed projects between N10 million and N50 million band representing 42.2% of capital projects in the 2021 Budget proposal is not only useless but utterly wasteful and a deliberate attempt to avoid well mapped out procurement plans.
The organisation also noted that about 55.51% of the items captured in the 2021 Budget may not be executed.
It further observed that duplication and fragmentation of capital items, falsely grouping of capital projects as well as placing items in the wrong subheads is also a conduit pipe to shield project tracing and accountability.
The group also raised concern over breakdown of capital projects in the Federal government 2021 budget has been carefully drafted to make project formulations look opaque and hence create an avenue for embezzlement and misuse of the public funds.
The disclosure was contained in a press statement signed by the organization’s Communications Associate, Iyanu Fatoba.
The statement which raised too many concerns on the 2021 Budget reads,
“There are too many new projects; marred by duplications, false categorizations and other issues that create loopholes for corruption and misuse of public funds.
55.51% of the total allocation for capital expenditure is earmarked for new projects, many of which may end up uncompleted by 2021. This is contrary to the hope President offered in his budget speech that ongoing projects would be prioritized in the 2021 Budget
“Of the 13,343 capital projects we analyzed, a sizable number of projects were falsely categorized as capital projects even though, in reality, they are not.
“For instance, meetings, allowances, anniversaries and celebrations were miscategorized as capital projects.
“Some cases in point include; N3.3bn for “Posting and Return Entitlement of Ambassadors and Officers” in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N74.5million allocated for Anniversaries and Celebrations” in the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDC), N40 million for “Peculiar Allowance” in Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission.
“These were all categorized as capital expenditures. #2021Budget@nigeriagov had offered hope that capital projects in the 2021 FG budget will be accompanied by precise GPS coordinates to encourage project monitoring.
“Not only was this not provided in the proposal, many capital projects also had no specific locations” BudgIT pointed out.
BudgIT recalled that in June 2020, its analysis of Open Treasury Portal revealed that over N50bn of public funds were paid into personal accounts.
“Allocating projects without defined location(s) is a loophole for this form of corruption to continue in the fiscal year 2021. Duplication, opacity and fragmentation of line items by government agencies could present opportunities for subverting checks and balances meant for accountability.
“As a case in point, two line items tagged “Nurse Tutor Training” and “Special Intervention SDG 1” were duplicated in 3 and 2 places, respectively, with different budget codes. These two line items have allocations totaling over N41 Billion earmarked for them, without specific descriptions.
“The fragmentation of capital projects is an urgent conversation that Nigerian government needs to address”.
The organisation further advised that as nations go through dwindling revenues caused by low oil prices and the current slump in the global economy, it is crucial for the government to pay attention to a few projects of immense social and economic value.
BudgIT, therefore, implores the Nigerian government and the National Assembly to allocate more funds to capital projects that directly affect the welfare of the citizens.
“More importantly, it is expedient that more funds are allocated to ongoing projects to ensure the government’s commitment to their completion. Likewise, MDAs involved in splitting their Capital Expenditure to subvert checks and balances should be identified and made to face the law”.