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Budget 2017 and return of padding

BUDGET mishmash in 2016 caused the Federal Government a big embarrassment. There were assurances that the mess would not be repeated. But the demon is very much with the 2017 budget, going by a revelation from the Senate last week during a ministerial budget defence of the N7.29 trillion proposal. In his budget defence, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola,  faced the discomfiture of explaining how a strange N2 billion crept into the ministry’s budget, under the expenditure sub-head: “Regional Housing Scheme.” This is outside the N41.9 billion allocated to the National Housing Programme in the budget.  “It is not our project…It is a Ministry of Finance initiative…That is not what we submitted. We did not submit that proposal,” Fashola explained.

Government must be made more accountable for what it achieves with taxpayers’ money. Clearly, the ugly scene speaks volumes about how our national budget is mangled annually by those who are expected to guarantee its integrity. Last year, Fashola’s counterpart in the Ministry of Health, Isaac Adewole, withdrew the purported budget of the ministry to purge it of its strange elements when he discovered that crooks had moved N15.7 billion for capital projects to other areas, just as funds were set aside for projects on which no final decisions had been taken just yet. This year again, about 55 agencies have up to 276 curious items in their budgets, costing about N145 billion, according to a media report.

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