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Buhari and the budget for corruption

Blaming civil servants for the budget fiasco doesn’t add up

President Muhammadu Buhari sacked the Director-General of the Budget Office, Yahya Gusau, last week and threatened to sack more staff for the embarrassing “irregularities” in the 2016 budget.

The budget had been exposed as containing inflated figures and dubious items, which led the presidency to blame a “budget mafia” of civil servants for the fraud.

Ministers such as Rotimi Amaechi at transportation and Isaac Adewole at health, disowned the budget, with the latter claiming that “rats” must have smuggled items into the health budget.

The dodgy budget is now a national, and even international, embarrassment. Strangely enough, many of the senior politicos that were officially responsible for the budget, fell over each other to disown it. For starters, it was the president that presented it to the National Assembly on 22 December calling it a “Budget of Change” and claiming: “We are determined to ensure that our resources are managed prudently and utilised solely for the public good.” Adding: “To set the proper tone, one of our early decisions was the adoption of a zero based budgeting approach, which ensures that resources are aligned with government’s priorities and allocated efficiently.” The buck should stop with him, but he passed it to civil servants.

In addition to Udo Udoma, the Minister for Budget and National Planning, there is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who also doubles as “Chairman Budget and National Planning”, who should have oversight responsibility for the budget. Additionally, Osinbajo claimed in October that his role is: “to ensure that everyone that is involved in economic activities is coordinated in such a way that the president is fully briefed of what everyone is doing, such that we are all on the same page and to make it easier for the president to make decisions.”

All these political officials have denied responsibility and washed their hands off the massive fraud in the budget.

However, the suggestion that a “budget mafia” in the Budget Office could be responsible for the “padded” figures does not stand up to scrutiny. A very experienced senior civil servant explained to Naijiant.com that it was highly unlikely that civil servants in the budget office could fiddle figures that were going to other ministries and agencies.

This was because those that padded figures had no control over the money, as it would go the allocated ministry. It then begged the question why any official would risk their job for apparent fraud in which there was no benefit for them?

The most plausible explanation for the fraud in the budget is the one that another source close to the presidency informed us about. The source said that the “cabal” around the president, led by his uncle Mamman Daura, with the president’s Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, as facilitator, coordinated the fraud in the budget, with the intention of diverting the inflated expenditure towards the business interests of the “cabal”.

When the fact that the “cabal” was influential in the appointment of several ministers and other senior officials of the administration is taken into account, it then becomes clear that the presidency and people in control there, were the only “mafia” with the structure and the means to have perpetrated the budget fraud.

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