THE unhappy fate of the 2017 Budget is one more proof that Nigerian government finds it difficult to carry out simple tasks which are taken for granted in other climes. Government in this case means the Executive and Legislative branches which have the joint responsibility under the constitution to pass the annual appropriation bills. Since our return to democracy in1999, each elected government has treated the Budget with the level of levity which the framers of the constitution could not have intended.
The country’s financial year officially starts on January 1 and ends on December 31. The budget agreed between the Presidency and the National Assembly, NASS, presumably addresses social, economic and security needs from the first day of each year. So, it was expected that the Presidency and the NASS would, with deliberate speed, pass the budget at the earliest possible time. That has not been the case since the first budget presented in 2000.
For various reasons, mostly frivolous, the passage of the appropriation bills had been delayed until late March or April. This year, it has been extended into May, and the chances are that the 2017 budget may not be ready until some time in June 2017. The situation has become progressively worse.
This year’s budget is being held up ostensibly because the home of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, was searched by the Police and several items, including the budget document, taken away. What a frivolous excuse! Does it mean that no other copy exists with other Committee members, including their counterparts in the House of Representatives?
For a country that has a whole ministry dedicated to budgeting (Budget and National Planning) with a full Directorate attached, there should be no justification for our everlasting sloppiness in creating our annual financial spending plans.
After the budget fiasco of 2016 which was bedevilled by the “padding” saga, one had expected that everything would be done by both arms of government to correct the anomalies this year.
To avoid traveling this road again in the future, there is a need for the Budget Office to start its work towards the 2018 financial year not later than August 2017. It should be possible to forward the document to the National Assembly in October to ensure that the budget is passed latest in January 2018.
We need to adopt an efficient budget cycle that starts at the beginning of the year and ends in December. This will have salutary spin-offs on spending discipline. It will also enable us evaluate budget performance, effectively track unspent funds and reduce corruption.
There is a need for the Muhammadu Buhari regime to break the annual budget cycle rollovers inherited from previous administrations.