Budget: FG admits errors, threatens sanctions against perpetrators

Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udoma.

The Ministry of Budget and National Planning on Tuesday admitted that there were errors in the 2016 Budget, blaming the development on the adoption of the Zero-Based Budgeting System.

The ministry stated this in a statement by the Director of Information in the ministry, Mr. Charles Dafe. It explained that while the budget, which was presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari was well structured and targeted at reviving the economy, those responsible for budgeting at the various ministries, departments and agencies of government were still grappling with some of the technicalities used in the fiscal document.

It said the new Zero-Based Budgeting approach was still new to most of the agencies of the government as it was a far departure from the envelope system of budget. The Zero-Based Budgeting approach is a system of budgeting that reverses the working process of traditional budgeting by ensuring that all expenses must be justified in the new period.

The approach is different from the now common envelope system in the civil service, which was introduced by the Federal Government in 2003 and works by providing each MDA with a maximum amount for its capital and recurrent needs for the fiscal year.

As the country moves away from the envelope system, Dafe, in the statement, said the ministry would improve on the competency of the ZBB. The statement read in part, The proposals have received general commendation. However, the details were developed using the Zero-Based Budget and is a new concept to our Budget Officers away from our traditional envelop process.

The members of staff in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning as well as those handling budget issues in all ministries and extra-ministerial agencies are grappling to master the technicalities in the ZBB template.

As such therefore, some errors are not unexpected in the changeover to the new ZBB approach. This was the reason the ministry arranged for the proposals to be placed on the website of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to expose them to public scrutiny.

While assuring Nigerians that the ministry would liaise with the National Assembly to address issues raised in the budget, the statement said the government would thoroughly investigate and sanction anyone found to have been involved in any fraudulent activity as regards the budget.

It said, The ministry assures the general public that it will continue to liaise with the relevant committees of the National Assembly to address any issues that have arisen, or may arise.

Training and retraining to build capacity of the Budget Officers on the ZBB concept will be intensified in 2016. As we move forward, lessons are being learnt; the ministry experience and competency on ZBB will be improved and perfected upon.

However, the ministry has zero tolerance for malfeasance and whenever any wrongdoing is alleged, it will be thoroughly investigated and sanctions will be applied. However, members of the National Assembly have begun questioning the integrity of the document before them and suddenly announced yesterday the indefinite suspension of the deadline they had earlier fixed for passing the budget.

The two houses had fixed February 25, 2015 as the deadline for passing the document. Meanwhile, State House officials yesterday defended before both chambers of the National Assembly the N18.1 billion proposed for its operation in the 2016 fiscal year during which they offered an insight into the contentious State House Clinic allocation.

The Permanent Secretary, State House, Jalal Arabi, who made the defence while appearing before the joint National Assembly Committees on Federal Character, Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, noted that the N1.7 billion generated by the State House in the 2015 fiscal year had since been remitted to the Federal Government coffers.

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