The Federal Government is almost concluding arrangements to sanction some top officials for their alleged attempt to sabotage efforts aimed at making the 2016 Budget truly people-oriented.
A Presidency source who pleaded anonymity told journalists in Abuja on Saturday that the officials who he described as “the budget mafia” were responsible for some controversial provisions noticed in the budget proposal currently before the National Assembly.
He claimed that the officials’ aim was to frustrate all the innovations introduced into budget preparation by the present administration for their own selfish interests.
Giving specific examples, the source said after learning that the Presidency was considering a huge budget of possibly N8trn in order to significantly increase capital expenditure, bureaucrats brought a proposal of N9.7trn for overhead and capital spending without personnel spending.
He said of the proposed N9.7trn, the bureaucrats planned to spend N3trn on overhead alone.
He added that not comfortable with the arrangement, the Presidency eventually slashed the proposed N3trn to N163bn. The figure is by eight percent lower than the N177bn in the 2015 budget.
“Bureaucrats also proposed to spend N2.1trn on personnel for the 2016 estimates compared to about N1.8trn in the 2015 budget. But the Presidency also cut this down to N1.7trnn in the final estimates sent to the legislature.
“The situation and its fallout were so bad that it provoked the annoyance of the President who nonetheless kept his cool buying time so as to meet the target date for the presentation of the budget in line with extant laws and regulations governing the budget process,” he said.
He added that the officials also attempted to sabotage the zero-based budgeting introducing by the present administration because it would not serve their selfish interests.
The source said top civil servants involved in the resistance would soon be shown the way out.
He explained further, “Zero-Based Budgeting proceeds on the basis of justifying need and costs rather than the annually incremental approach that transfers expenses from previous budgets with added upward reviews.
“The old approach having been mastered by bureaucrats and past public officials including former ministers often leads to several acts of corruption both by civil servants and political appointees.
“Although the Presidency had been planning on the adoption of the Zero-Based Budget with top officials from the then Budget Office and then National Planning Commission few months after taking over mid-year 2015, yet when both agencies were merged into the new Ministry of Budget and National Planning and a minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma was assigned to the ministry.
“The civil servants simply refused to brief the minister on the Zero-Based Budget and efforts already made.
“For weeks after the minister was sworn in, the bureaucrats kept planning on the old budget model, stalling the decision to use the Zero-Based Budget until the new Minister found out from the Presidency.
“This stalling led to the waste of valuable time and sources. The bureaucrats had calculated that once time becomes of essence, the Presidency would be forced to abandon the Zero-Based Budget.
“However, the Presidency regrouped the budget planning efforts around the concept of Zero-Based Budget by early December when the Budget Minister now aware of the Zero-Based Budget took control and leadership of the process.”
He added that even after that, some of the bureaucrats did not cooperate, therefore taking longer than required time to come back with revisions to their estimates that were recommended and ratified by the Presidency.
In the process, according to him, many of the provisions already marked down for revision simply got snuck in, pushing the Presidency in the defensive in the backlash in the public arena.
He said the officials would have been sacked at that point but the government exercised restraint in order not to truncate the process that has been put in place.
The official explained further that the inclusion of many of the provisions that have drawn the ire of the public managed to sail through the budget with more than 6000 items in all because supervision was made more difficult with the uncooperative attitude of the bureaucrats and their subordinates.
He said even the process of costing some of the expenditures was also made difficult when the Bureau of Public Procurement was not ready with an updated list, insisting instead on a list prepared in 2013.