As recurrent budget ends today: Federal agencies’ overheads trapped

Many federal agencies are unable to get releases for their multi-billion naira overhead costs as the recurrent expenditure officially ends today, Daily Trust findings have shown.

The salary and overheads constitute the recurrent expenditure, while the overheads are the cost of running the government.

The overhead is comprised of payment for utilities, maintenance, security, welfare, stationaries, insurance and training.

Dozens of federal agencies recorded huge debt in electricity, water, insurance bills, among others, due to the reduction in allocations for overheads.

The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company Ltd recently decried outstanding debts of the MDAs which runs into billions.

Under the appropriation law, only the capital expenditure will be rolled over to the following year (2018); but spending on recurrent expenditure will officially end at the end of the year.

Daily Trust gathered that government released overheads for only seven months and below, depending on the importance of the Ministries, Department, and Agencies (MDAs).

The federal government budgeted N219.84 billion as total overheads in 2017. By the first half of the year, only N35.4 billion was released, according to official records obtained from the Budget Office of the Federation.

Sources said about N100billion of such overhead in 2017 will now be lost by the MDAs when the federal books are closed tonight.

Many of the MDAs have been rushing to secure releases of some of the overhead before the year runs out, but there was no fund to finance such claim with the government.

Sources said some MDAs resorted to cutting down some of their personal cost to run the activities of their offices.

Workers, service providers complain

Recently, workers in Ministry of Interior threatened to down tools due to poor working condition as a result of insufficient overhead releases.

In a letter recently addressed to the minister, the workers said there were no decent working materials that could aid staff in the discharge of their duties such as photocopies, papers, tonners and inks. They also said water in most of the toilets in the ministry and other departments.

The letter was written by the Joint Union Negotiating Council of the ministry, and signed by Comrade Iribom A.K and Comrade D. Bassey.

The workers also complained that since 2015, none of them attended any training from the ministry and even their staff bus was maintained from their contribution.

A staff of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), who declined to be named because he was not permitted to speak, said it’s now very difficult to work due to poor overhead.

He said most times they could not go out for routine operation with their vehicles due to lack of fuel.

A security service expert, who runs a security outfit, and services in some federal ministries in Abuja, said a lot of security workers and cleaners attached to the MDAs had not been paid salaries.

The federal government has already outsourced the security and cleaning services to private companies and are being paid through the overhead allocations.

Due to non-release of overhead allocation as and when due, some of these workers are being owed many months’ salary, another source said.

What government says

The budget implementation report recently released by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, signed by Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning, and Ben Akabueze, Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, said government continued to prioritize capital expenditure over nonessential recurrent non-debt expenditure like overtime in the face of continuing revenue constraint.

“The strategic initiatives of Government aimed at cutting down recurrent costs were therefore vigorously pursued during the period. This includes the continued roll-out of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) across MDAs, activation of more module of the GIFMIS platform as well as the use of the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

Mr. Akabueze, said the government was forced to cut overhead allocations to MDAs due to dwindling revenue.

“So, personnel, pensions, debt servicing and capital expenditure, eat up 85 percent, leaving 15 percent for statutory transfers to National Assembly, judiciary, service-wide charges and overhead cost of running all of government.

“By the time you finish all of this, you’ll find that the overhead cost is the last to be paid. So, the overhead cost has been taking the brunt of this situation,” Akabueze told journalist recently.