Thursday, February 11, 2016

Breaking News: Active Citizen writes NASS, alleges abnormal gross inflation in 2016 budget

 … Condemns Communications Ministry N1bn furniture budget
A civil society group, the Active Citizen has written to the National Assembly (NASS) alleging abnormal gross inflation in the 2016 budget, reports ITRealms

In an open letter to NASS, the group’s led by Active Citizen: Mr. Dewole Ajao, Rev'd Sunday Folayan, Mr Alexander Akaahs, Ms Rashida Umar, and Mr Ayo Aremu, called on the both the Senate and House of Representatives to ensure that Nigerians, especially the unborn are not shortchanged or put into debt.

They highlighted six core problems with the budget, which include the furniture budget of N585m by the Ministry of Communications for Chairs and N415m for tables in 2016 appropriation.

They lamented that “N 1billion for Furniture in one ministry in one year should catch anyone's attention. If an agency buys tables worth N400m last year and wants to buy N500m furniture this year, one expects furniture to last a minimum of 4 years or longer.”
Active Citizen also insisted that Nigeria should not borrow a Kobo in excess of her earnings, to fund 2016 budget that is grossly inflated. “If necessary, the budget must be re-aligned to Nigeria's earnings,” they maintained.

Part of the letter sighted by ITRealms stated in part:

1. There is abnormal variation in estimates: Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency NNMDA can buy Double Cabin Toyota Hilux for N5.7m, but the Presidential Air fleet will buy for N9.2m and the FTC Ikare will buy for N27.7m. Same specification, a wide variation. 

2. There are very few specific details in the budget: With the Hilux example above, we have agencies and Colleges that have quoted N56m without quantity. In our examination, we cannot check if this is for 10 units of 1 unit that they intend to buy. 

3. There are many repetitions of the same items: FCTA proposes to build a house for the Senate President using N7.2Bn spread over 5 repeated items. 

4. Many of the prices quoted are outrageous: NIA has budgeted N1.33Bn for Open Source Network Monitoring. We are well informed that it costs a fraction of this proposed cost, to implement open source network monitoring. At least two people in this room at this hearing have International experience in doing this. 

5. There is no link to previous expenditure on replaceable items: Ministry of Communications Technology has a Furniture budget of N585m for Chairs and N415m for tables in 2016. 1billion for Furniture in one ministry in one year should catch anyone's attention. If an agency buys tables worth N400m last year and wants to buy N500m furniture this year, one expects furniture to last a minimum of 4 years or longer. 

6. The data was not in machine readable format for detailed Analyses: We acknowledge the fact that the budget was made public, and in PDF format. This is a welcome development. Several organizations and individuals have spent valuable time combing through the budget manually, when we have tools that can aid in examining the budget, if it was in machine readable format. 

We for example, developed and used Public Data for our examinations.
It is clear that due diligence was not done, neither was the budget scrutinized. The citizens of Nigeria have been short-changed. This is below our expectations of a government that we all pledged to support. 

We want it corrected. Some suggestions as solutions:
1. Instead of retail purchase, let us consider negotiating wholesale so that the Government can buy cheaper. Margins will be slimmer for those in the supply chain but hey, our children will suffer more, if the country runs into too much debt. 

2. We can try leasing as an option for certain items. With leasing, the government (by extension citizens) will not bear maintenance headaches and we will not lay out so much capital upfront, in this lean times. 

We are against the purchase of N590m worth of one Printer for the Ministry of Information and Culture. There certainly is at least one Private Press in this country that can do the same job that FMIC needs that printer for. If there is none, then the National Office of Technological Acquisition and (NOTAP) must help bring this requirement to be domesticated in the country as soon as practicable. 

3. We want to put our Ministry of Budget and National Planning to better use in the Monitoring of budget implementation. They must release the budget data in Machine readable format so that we the citizens can leverage the data released, and help improve transparency either by building tools around this data or simply being aware of projects that are supposed to be going on in our communities. 

4. The budget office should make the data available in machine readable format. For the future, CSV and JSON (at the worst, EXCEL) are preferred for citizens to dig deeper.
5. We must formalize communication channels like this consultation. A period of public discourse is desirable, so that even after this 8th assembly, citizens can have direct access to make inputs before finalizing the budget. 

"Our demand: We here call on the assembly, to ensure that the nation does not borrow a Kobo in excess of our earnings, to fund this budget that is grossly inflated. If necessary, the budget must be re-aligned to Nigeria's earnings. 

“We must not leave any debt for our children rather surpluses to help them compete in the emerging globalized economy.  We believe our submissions will be considered, in arriving at the way forward. 

“On behalf of everyone that have volunteered their time and energy to put the information in a format that clearly helps citizens understand the budget and figures, we thank the National Assembly for this opportunity. God Bless Nigeria.”
+Remmy Nweke (ITRealms) +ITRealms DSA 
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