The embarrassing errors in the 2016 Budget appeared to have claimed a first casualty on Monday as President Muhammadu Buhari sacked the Director-General (Budget), Mr. Yahaya Gusau.
The President also approved the appointment of Mr. Tijjani Abdullahi to replace Gusau, who was appointed in August last year.
These were contained in a statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, on Monday.
Although no reason was given for the development, observers believed that Gasau was fired because of the various discrepancies that had been identified in the 2016 budget proposals currently before the National Assembly.
A top government source, who confided in The PUNCH, said although Gusasu could not be blamed for the errors and padding of the budget, the buck stopped at his table as the director-general.
The source stated, “His removal has to do with errors and discrepancies in the budget. I can assure you that more heads will roll.”
The Presidency sources had, on February 6, alleged that a budget mafia planned to scuttle innovations introduced by the current administration into the budget by inflating figures.
The mafia was alleged to have proposed a budget of N9.7tn for capital and overhead spending, excluding personnel cost, as against the Presidency’s initial estimate of about N8tn.
The group was said to have proposed N3tn as overheads alone out of the N9.7tn, a figure the Presidency later slashed to N163bn.
The ministry of budget and national planning had also promised to investigate and punish those responsible for the errors and strange figures found in the budget, which was presented to the National Assembly by Buhari in December, 2015.
The errors had delayed the passage of the budget with the federal legislature saying the February 25 deadline it set for its approval was no more feasible.
The Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, had said, “We have not postponed it indefinitely; we are saying that with the current developments, the February 25 deadline we gave ourselves may not be realistic.”
According to Adesina, Abdullahi, who succeeded Gusau, is a fellow of the Certified National Accountants of Nigeria and a banker of repute with experience in managing public finance.
In a similar development, Adesina said the President had approved the appointment of Mr. Ben Akabueze as the Special Adviser on Planning to the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
Akabueze, the immediate past Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget in Lagos State, is said to have worked in senior management positions in Citi Bank, Fidelity Bank, United Bank for Africa, NAL Merchant Bank, Sterling Bank and BIA Consulting Limited, among others.
He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and also a Fellow, Institute of Credit Administrators.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Social Justice on Monday said the 2016 budget contained N668.8bn expenditure that was “frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful”.
The centre stated this in Abuja while unveiling a report that analysed the 2016 budget.
Speaking on the report, the Lead Director, CSJ, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, said the fiscal document should be reviewed in order to remove all the expenditure that would not impact positively on the lives of the people.
He said it had become a tradition among Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government to make allowance for unnecessary expenditure in the budget.
Some of them are purchase of vehicles, welfare packages, software, computers, uniforms and clothing, refreshment and meals and subscription to professional bodies.
Others, the CSJ listed, are maintenance of office building/residential quarters, budget preparation, rents and absence of price database.
Giving a breakdown of some of the expenses that made up the unclear expenditure, Onyekpere said for the State House, for instance, the sum of N3.91bn was allocated to annual reporting maintenance of Villa facilities while N618.6m was budgeted for installation of electrical fittings.
Other expenses that the group considered as wasteful are N272m for upgrade of mechanical power line, N322.4m for linking of cable to drivers’ restroom at the Villa and N213.8m for linking of cable from the Guest House to generator house.
He added, “Despite the provision for the maintenance of Villa facilities, this huge sum is being considered for the same location.
“The Villa Guest House and facilities have already taken so much. These seem to be a play on words around electricity for the sum of N1.83bn.
“These cannot be priorities for Nigeria in these lean times. This is incredible and should be reduced by 70 per cent.”
On the huge amount budgeted for vehicles, the group urged the National Assembly to demand an inventory of all existing vehicles in the MDAs before considering such requests.
The report said, “Purchase of (motor) vehicles is a common request across many MDAs. How do we determine genuine from frivolous requests?
“Should NASS demand an inventory of existing vehicles? There is a need for justification before every approval. The demand for vehicles is even specifically tied to some foreign brands.
“This is wrong under the Public Procurement Act as only the functional specification of a product should be in the budget.”
The group believed that rather than spending these funds for the procurement of these items, they should be re-channelled to other productive sectors of the economy.
The report added, “A total of N668.88bn has been identified as resources to be saved and re-programmed. We hope the National Assembly will do the needful and reprogramme these resources for the public good.”
A source in the Presidency who claimed that the mafia was responsible for the controversial provisions in the eventual N6.07tn budget sent to the National Assembly by the Presidency, added, “These bureaucrats also proposed to spend N2.1tn on personnel for the 2016 estimate compared to about N1.8tn in the 2015 budget.’’
Following the revelation, the Federal Government, it was learnt, would soon commence an investigation to determine the roles played by permanent secretaries, directors and budget officers in MDAs in the padding of the budget.
The PUNCH gathered from top government officials that the probe, which is expected to commence any time from now, would also be extended to assistant directors, deputy directors and other top-level officers in agencies of government.
It was learnt that the investigation, to be carried out by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. would assist in unravelling the mystery surrounding the padding of the budget.