ABUJA— In an outright rejection of the allegation of padding the yet-to-be passed 2018 budget, the executive arm of government, yesterday, described as spurious and mischievous, claims by some members of the National Assembly that the budget submitted to them by the Presidency was padded and full of errors. The government also defended its implementation of the 2017 budget, saying it had already achieved more than what was done within the same period in 2016 by releasing over N1.2 trillion of the capital votes for the 2017 budget despite the late passage of the Appropriation Bill by the National Assembly. It will be recalled that the 2017 budget, which was presented to the NASS in November 2016, was belatedly passed into law on June 12, 2017. A top Federal Government official, who defended the performance of the budget in a document obtained by Vanguard in Abuja, yesterday, said the performance of the 2017 budget was affected by what the government called ‘unforeseen and extraneous factors’ but did not say who caused or created the factors. The official noted: “The perceived poor implementation of the 2017 budget is not as a result of lack of capacity but because of unforeseen and extraneous factors. “First and foremost, the 2017 budget was affected by the late passage of the Appropriation Bill. Nevertheless, this affected only the capital aspects of the budget, as the statutory transfers, recurrent expenditures and debt service had been fully met in line with the budget.
“Cumulatively, N1.2 trillion was released for capital expenditure under the 2017 budget as at December 2017, after only six months of implementation. This amount is almost equivalent to the total release for the 2016 budget, which ran for 12 calendar months. “The expenditure under the 2017 budget, therefore, remains on track given its late approval on June 12, 2017 and the associated delays as a result of mandatory procurement processes.” No budget padding The source dismissed as untenable claims by some federal lawmakers that 2018 budget was ‘padded’ with the repetition of some items, explaining that with the zero budgeting system adopted by the Buhari’s administration, any item in the budget approved but not cashed back in the previous year, could be repeated in the current budget to ensure its implementation. The official said: “Lately, there has been a lot of talk about repetitive items in the budget, which some have called padding. However, it is inevitable that some items will be repeated in the annual budgets. “Firstly, there are consumable items that are required each year. Then you have the fact that most capital projects are designed to span beyond one year budget cycle and so will be repeated until they are completed.
“Furthermore, some items, which are one-off, may be repeated because, even though they are in the budget for a particular year, they may not have been funded. Such items will, therefore, be repeated in the subsequent year’s budget until they are funded. “Analysts, therefore, need to inquire into the specific circumstances surrounding the repetition of any items in budgets before drawing conclusions. The mere fact of repetition of an item in the budget is not conclusive evidence of a malfeasance. “The document also pointed out that it was impossible for any Federal Government official to deliberately insert anything into the budget with a view to benefitting from such insertion, as the current administration had made it compulsory for carefully selected head of each MDA to upload their budget online into the Budget Preparation System to prevent any form of error. “This way, only designated officers of the MDAs are granted access rights with passwords to make these upload and the system maintains an audit trail to identify who is responsible for any budget entry.”