President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo are to spend N2.2bn on travels and transport, foodstuffs and catering materials, refreshment and meals as well as honorarium and sitting allowances in the 2016 fiscal year. Details of this spending are contained in the 2016 budget of N6.08tn, which the President submitted to a joint session of the National Assembly last week.
An analysis of the document, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent on Tuesday in Abuja, showed that the total allocation of N2.2bn to the President and his deputy was N710m higher than what was budgeted for the same purpose under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the budget document, N1.415bn was allocated to the President alone for general travels and transport. This amount, when compared to the N944.62m that Jonathan got in 2015, was N470.38m or 49.7 per cent higher. A breakdown of the N1.415bn allocated for the President’s travels shows that the sum of N714.5m is proposed for local travels while N701.16m is budgeted for international travels.
Both sums, when compared to the N640.34m and N304.32m allocated for the same purposes under Jonathan for local and foreign trips, represent an increase of N74.16m and N396.84m. For foodstuffs and catering materials, a total sum of N114.9m is allocated for Buhari alone, indicating an increase of N45.09m or 64.6 per cent over that of Jonathan.
In terms of honorarium and sitting allowances, N307.64m was budgeted for the President as against N223.24m allocated for the same purpose in 2015. In the same vein, N49.1m has been proposed for the President in the 2016 fiscal period for publicity and advertisement as against N29.8m in 2015.
For the office of the Vice-President, the budget document states that N48m is proposed for general travels and transport in 2016 as opposed to N33.86m in 2015. In the same vein, the document says N13.3m and N13.9m are being proposed for international travels and transport (trainings) and international travels and transport (others) for the Vice- President in 2016.
Both amounts, when compared to the sum of N9.4m and N9.87m, which was allocated for the same purpose in 2015, represents an increase of N3.9m and N4.03m respectively. Other amounts allocated for the Vice- President are foodstuffs and catering, N16.6m; refreshment and meals, N7.5m; honorarium and sitting allowance, N8.8m; and publicity and advertisement, N23.08m.
These amounts allocated for Osinbajo, when compared to the amount budgeted for former Vice President Namadi Sambo for the same purpose under the 2015 budget, represent an increase of N4.84m, N2.18m, N1.88m and N6.79m respectively. The document also listed other expenditure items for the office of the Vice President to include maintenance service, N46.44; consultancy, N9.6m; other services, N22.3m; fuel and lubricants, N24.9m, among others.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had shortly after assumption of office in November, inaugurated the Efficiency Unit to assist the government cut the cost of governance. The minister, who said the unit was approved by Buhari to drive down the cost of running government, said no amount of economic policies would deliver the desired results if the manner in which government money was expended was not carefully controlled.
Adeosun lamented that while much had been said about effects of corruption on the economy, little attention was given to the damaging effects of inefficiency and wastages. She pointed out that a review carried out by the ministry had discovered wide variations in terms of costs between departments and within agencies as there were currently no guidelines on spending
The minister added:
“In the few weeks I have spent as the Minister of Finance, it has become clear that without a radical intervention to manage the costs of government, no meaningful improvement in our nation will be forthcoming.
“No amount of fiscal innovation, financial re-engineering or other well intentioned economic policy will deliver the desired results, for as long as the manner in which government money is expended is not carefully controlled.”
Isn’t this ironic?