Security Votes: BudgIT alleges corruption in Nigeria’s budget process, warns against rising debt

*Civic-tech non-profit organisation BudgIT says its investigations into the Federal Budget 2021 revealed at least 316 duplicated capital projects worth N39.5billion involving a total of 117 Federal agencies that received allocations for ‘Security Votes’

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Charging the Federal Government on the urgent need for more profound scrutiny and transparency in how allocations from taxpayers’ money are budgeted and spent, BudgIT, a civic-tech non-profit organisation, has called on the government to audit security spending and close loopholes for corruption in the budget process in Nigeria.

ConsumerConnect gathered Mr. Gabriel Okeowo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BudgIT, speaking on the organisation’s recent publication, “Demanding Budget Reforms for Resource Optimisation”, said “2021 has been a horrifying year for Nigerians concerning security as the country combats mutating forms of crime and terror across all its 36 states.

Okeowo said: “This is despite allocating over N10.02tn to security between 2015 and 2021.

“In the 2021 budget, the entire security sector’s allocation was N1.97tn, representing a 14% increase from the N1.78tn allocated in 2020.”

The organisation maintained that increased resources allocated to the security sector means that less money is available to develop other sectors for the good of the citizenry.

BudgIT stated there is a need for more scrutiny of how these statutory allocations are budgeted and spent in the country.

The publication also pointed out that various non-security related government agencies now request and receive allocations for “Security Votes”, which the organisation has described as an opaque feature of the Nigerian security ecosystem devoid of accountability.

According to BudgIT, in the 2021 budget, a total of 117 Federal agencies received allocations for “Security Votes” worth N24.3billion, despite many of these agencies already having allocations for “Security Charges” to cover each agency’s security needs.

The little budgetary allocation provided to other sectors of the economy are plagued with various loopholes for leakages and theft of public funds, the organisation alleged.

It further explained: “Our investigations into the 2021 budget revealed at least 316 duplicated capital projects worth N39.5bn, with 115 of those duplicate projects occurring in the Ministry of Health.

“This is very disturbing especially considering the health infrastructure deficit and the raging COVID-19 pandemic affecting Nigeria.”

It said even worse the fact that agencies now receive allocations for capital projects they cannot execute.

The organisation noted, for example, the National Agriculture Seed Council has an allocation for N400million to construct solar streetlights across all six geopolitical zones, while the Federal College of Forestry in Ibadan, Oyo State, got N50million for the construction of streetlights in Edo State.”

These are aberrations that need to be corrected, it stated.

Mr. Okeowo enjoined the Federal Government to urgently block all loopholes in the budget creation and implementation process, some of which are highlighted in the recently released publication.

He added: “Nigeria is already haunted by a staggering N3.31tn debt servicing burden which will wipe out nearly 41.63% of the projected N7.99tn 2021 revenue.

“The Federal Government can maximise the little public funds left by blocking the leakages BudgIT has identified.”

It is also said that Nigeria’s budgeting process can be an excellent tool to accelerate economic recovery, but if the budgets are left with the current loopholes, they can cover corruption and grand theft in the country’s economy.

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