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Buhari’s Budget Is Not Zero Based – Auditor-General

Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja

Contrary to President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim that his 2016 Budget is zero-based, the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Samuel Ukura, onThursdaydeclared that the Budget is not zero-based, but an enveloped-based budgeting.

Ukura, who maintained that the Budget is an envelope-driven one, contradicted Buhari on template adopted for details of the N6.08 trillion 2016 Budget estimates.

Speaking before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Ukura, hinted that it was the earlier intention Buhari’s government to adopt a zero-based budgeting as a template.

He, however, explained that the realities on ground later forced the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s government to adopt the usual envelope-based budgeting.

He further revealed that even the N2.9 billion budget estimates of his office for this year was not arrived at by them through zero budgeting, but handed over to them as an envelope by the Ministry of Finance.

“Budgets of all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government this year are all enveloped-based and not zero-based as it has been the case over the years, including that of my Office, which is even largely done for us by the supervising ministry,” he said.

But he was reminded by senators Akpan Bassey and Foster Ogola that his submission on the 2016 Budget template ran contrary to the earlier one made before the joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari in December last year when he presented the Budget.

“This year’s Budget is enveloped, and not zero-based in anyway. It is envelope.

“The zero-based budgeting they wanted to introduce was not adhered to at the end of the day. In zero-based budgeting, it is assumed that such expenditure does not exist. You start from zero and justify why that expenditure must be used. And at the end of it, the result you are going to get out of it.

“So, it is a system, which is good and, which would have also helped to set targets; but that wasn’t applied at the end of the day
Perhaps, because it was hurriedly being introduced.

“Budget proposal and by extension, defence, is not about fighting, but discussing on what is made available for one to work it because what they want they give,” he said.

Ukura was also taken up by the Committee members on why his office has not deemed it fit to audit the account of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for always budgeting N32 billion for recurrent expenditure covering staff strength of about 1,400, the same staff strength of the AGF’s office with N1.8 billion votes for recurrent expenditure.

Committee members expressed their displeasure with Ukura’s presentation and the performance of his office so far.

They specifically said that it was very amazing to them, for not a single audit alarm raised from his office in the face of series of grafts being carried out in various government offices through budget paddings under recurrent and overhead votes to outright stealing.

The Committee, through its chairman, Senator Andy Uba, however, sympathized with his office for being underfunded.

According to him, it is unacceptable for a very important audit office of the federation to be allocated paltry sum sum of N654 million for auditing of N6.08 trillion Budget profile.

He vowed to work towards increasing the office votes in the budget on operational template.

“If you are not adequately funded, you are exposed to corruption, and this Committee will not allow that to happen,” Uba said.

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