Ugo Aliogo

BudgIT, a civic organisation yesterday warned that the projects inserted into the 2018 budget by members of the National Assembly are fragmented, difficult to track, adding that the action will derail the federal government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

The organisation noted this in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday.

According to BudgIT, the 6,529 new projects valued at N579.08 billion that were inserted into the 2018 budget, cannot be directly linked to the medium-term aspirations of the government as highlighted in the ERGP.

Furthermore, the group pointed out that the inserted projects showed that N63.64 billion or approximately 11 per cent of the new projects added by the National Assembly would be spent on various training and capacity building programmes in 2018.

According to BudgIT, given that the budget would be largely funded by borrowings as highlighted in the 2018 fiscal plan, it was disheartening to discover that most of the identified line items therein showed a significant disconnect from the developmental goals of government, as stated in the ERGP.

It also expressed displeasure over the number of micro-projects added by the NASS that may not fall within the core scope of the federal government.

The body also noticed that the new projects inserted into the budget were fragmented, “and budget line items are accompanied with vague descriptions that would prove difficult to monitor in physical and auditing terms.”

It added, “It is equally essential for the National Assembly to explain the rationale behind the increased allocations to itself as such cannot be justified given the abysmal distribution to the education and health sector, considering that NASS increased its budgetary allocation from N125 billion to N139.5 billion.

“We also observed that projects valued at N13.16 billion were cancelled altogether without detailed explanation by the national assembly. Some of the critical projects removed from the 2018 budget included N200.3 million meant to settle arrears under the national telephony programme; N100 million allocated for the establishment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) University and the N1.2 billion allocated under the proposed budget for the construction of the Zauro Polder Irrigation project.

“Equally shocking is the fact that allocations to over 4,621 projects were reduced by approximately N318.89 billion without citations. BudgIT welcomes the addition of N55.15 billion to the health sector under the National Health Act. While the amount falls short of the one per cent consolidated revenue fund (above N70bn), we see the allocation as the critical starting point and urge Nigerians and critical stakeholders to monitor its implementation.

“Overall, we believe that the 2018 budget will need proper interrogation from all stakeholders. It is also essential for the National Assembly and executive to significantly reduce the administrative component of the budget and direct funds towards improving education, health and other critical infrastructure.”