It will be recalled that BudgIT, a civic-tech non-profit organization had recently revealed it discovered 460 duplicated projects valued at N378.9bn in the 2022 Appropriation Act, accusing the National Assembly of padding the Federal Government’s budget, amongst other accusations.
Reacting to the discrepancies in the 2022 budget during the anti-corruption radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE on RADIO, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja, the Lead Director at Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere said Nigeria has gotten to a point where it cannot make progress without reforming the current budget processes, while noting that budget plays massive role in corruption.
Eze who was not surprised by the corruption flagged in the 2022 budget, stressed that beyond duplication of projects, the current national budget is full of frivolous, inappropriate and wasteful expenditures.
He advocated the Federal Government adopt participatory budgeting going forward – which entails engaging communities in solving their most urgent issues, while deepening equity and civic engagement at the same time.
Onyekpere also called for the reform of the minds of public servants, legislators and every other person who play one role or the other in budgeting, adding that unless sanctions and punishment against corrupt acts are strengthened Nigeria’s war against corruption is as good as a waste of time.
“I think the whole challenge is about how we reform the mindset of people starting from the law of consequences that if a man or woman should get and anticipate the natural consequences of his act, that if anybody puts his hand in the jar to take public money, that person should be prosecuted and possibly jailed. If the person is not jailed, let’s take some punishment like barred from public life, he can no longer occupy a public office or vie for a public position for 5-10 years, even if the person is not thrown into prison; It will deter erring politicians
“Even if we can’t recover stolen funds, the Tribunals, Courts, the Code of Conduct Bureau, all these things should be reformed in such a way that there will be consequences; if there are no consequences, we will continue to run around in a circle.”
Onyekpere added, “Nigeria should combine prevention with the punishment part of it; That means before a project gets into the budget, it should have passed through the crucible of review, it must be made available for stakeholders to make an input on whether the project is necessary in the first instance”.
The Project Manager at BudgIT, Tolutope Agunloye who also joined the call for reform of Nigeria’s budgetary system concurred that cases of corruption starts with the budget, noting that lack of political will is one of the major reasons the government is unable to block loopholes and tackle corruption in budgeting.
Agunloye suggested that Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) and enactment of a brand new Audit Law will go a long way in reducing budget fraud and strengthening the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation.
“The major thing is the political will to run a Zero-Based Budgeting which is a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified and approved for each new period; and if we can run ZBB we will have a budget that truly speaks for both the MDAs and also attend to the needs of the people.
“Also, the audit law we have is that of 1956. What we need is a new law or an amended audit law that can tackle the latest corruption that we are doing right now because at the end of the day, the Auditor General would have done almost all the work for the ICPC and will then call the anti-corruption agencies to take charge.”
Agunloye called on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and citizens to participate in monitoring the implementation of the 2022 budget.
“The 2022 budget implementation has kicked off, we need to ensure that we (CSOs) do our own part, which is monitoring. Let’s monitor implementation of the budget”, he said.
Last year, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed that the Agency uncovered 257 duplicated projects worth N20.138 billion in the 2021 budget. Till date no one has been prosecuted for the budget infraction.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program is supported by the MacArthur Foundation.
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