BudgIT and corruption in the budget process

THE brazenness with which those who are bent on milking and bilking the country go about their perfidy is fuelled by the sloppiness and ineptitude of those constitutionally empowered to checkmate them. In complicity, both groups have plundered the economy, plunged the country into a bottomless debt pit, pauperised the people and conferred on the country the ignoble title of global headquarters of poverty. The seeming helplessness of the Nigerian state at the hands of its economic saboteurs was accentuated by a report recently released by BudgIT, a civic-tech non-governmental organisation, in which the padding of the 2021 budget to the tune of N39.5 billion through project duplication was revealed.

According to the BudgIT report, a total of 117 federal agencies received security vote allocation worth N24.3 billion, despite already having allocations for security charges to cover their security needs. The report stated further that some agencies received budget allocations for projects which would be impossible for them to execute, citing the allocation of N400 million to the National Agriculture Seed Council to construct solar street lights across all six geopolitical zones and the allocation of N50 million to the Federal College of Forestry in Ibadan, Oyo State, for the construction of street lights in Edo State.

While it is both gnawing and annoying that some federal agencies had the temerity to perpetrate blatant larceny against the country by duplicating projects and padding the budget, it is particularly perplexing that the National Assembly failed in its gate-keeping responsibility of detecting and stopping frauds against the people. The process of passing a budget is so intense and engaging that the thought of an infraction of this magnitude escaping the prying eyes of the legislators could not have been contemplated. Unfortunately, members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives let down the people by failing to point out the con despite being in possession of the budget details for about three months.

This raises some questions. What technology or equipment does BudgIT have access to that the National Assembly cannot acquire? What expertise can BudgIT lay claim to that the National Assembly cannot hire? What information does BudgIT have about the inputs of the budget that the National Assembly cannot access? If BudgIT could detect the fraud, why couldn’t the 469-member National Assembly?

That these breaches passed through both the Senate and the House of Representatives without detection speaks to the competence and character of the members. It is either that the legislators lack the capacity to execute the responsibility assigned to them by the constitution, or they are complicit in the plot to plunder the country. Whatever  is the case, this is a sad commentary on the institution saddled with the responsibility of curbing acts of executive irresponsibility and recklessness.

Members of the National Assembly need to understand that their action and inaction go a long way in determining the wellness of the country. If they care about how posterity will portray them, they will gird up their loins and work for the people rather than against them.

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