Following a report by the public finance transparency advocacy firm, BudgIT, alleging that projects have been duplicated in the 2021 budget, the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) has stated otherwise in a short SMS reply to New Telegraph. The advocacy firm had explained in a report that the 2021 budget was riddled with 316 duplicated projects.
Following repeated phone calls and SMS by New Telegraph to the Director-General, Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze, for over a week, asking if he had contrary position to BudgIT’s view, he responded in a terse SMS, saying: “Yes, we do have a contrary position.”
Further efforts to get details on the contrary view were, however, ignored just as Head of Information, Budget Office, Mr. Afolabi Olajiwon, requested our reporter to send him an SMS after repeated calls. Since BudgIT made the allegations a few weeks ago, concerned Nigerians had been waiting for the budget office to denounce the report that had further confirmed that budget padding was yet to be done away with by Federal Government agencies, parastatals as well as the National Assembly.
The disclosure on the budget got escalated by interest groups. Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and members of the National Assembly suspected to be responsible for inserting the alleged N39.5 billion for apparently 316 duplicated and mysterious projects in the 2021 budget. BudgIT had raised the alarm to the effect that the 2021 budget was riddled with more than 316 duplicated capital projects worth N39.5 billion.
A report of analysis of the budget by the firm noted that the duplication of projects was just one among other loopholes for corruption in the spending plan. “Our investigations into the 2021 budget revealed at least 316 duplicated capital projects worth N39.5 billion, 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.