Senate blames Buhari, Adeosun, Udoma over alleged budget padding

By The Citizen

The Senate has blamed the Presidency for the alleged padding of the 2016 budget by some top civil servants.

The Senate said besides probing the padding, the Minister of National Planning and Budget, Senator Udo Udoma, should also be sanctioned.

The senators argued that civil servants alone could not have perpetrated the embarrassing act alone without the connivance and collaboration of the budget office, supervised by Udoma.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, said Udoma should be held responsible for the unfortunate development because he scrutinised the final copy of the document before submitting it to Buhari, who presented it to the National Assembly.

Ibrahim added, 'I don't believe that some civil servants were the ones behind the scandal. The ministers of finance (Mrs. Kemi Adeosun) and her counterpart in the National Planning and Budget have a strong economic team working with them at the Budget Office.

'They have all the revenue envelopes at their disposal to scrutinise. They are to be blamed for this mess because ministry officials in the Ministries, Department and Agencies do not prepare the budget. They only send their input while the Budget Office does the final preparation.'

On his part, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications and Technology, Prof. Ajayi Boroffice, described the incident as most unfortunate, noting that the Senate was confused and perplexed by the development.

He argued that some insiders within the Presidency and the Budget Office were solely responsible for the financial scandal rocking the current fiscal document.

He said, 'In budget preparation, the MDAs operate with the Budget Office. But it is the Budget Office, through the ministries supervising it, that would present the final copy to the President. Those who are behind this mess should be exposed and dealt with. This is highly unfortunate.'

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, also condemned the budget padding, calling on the Presidency to take appropriate actions to uncover those behind it.

Presidency sources had, on Saturday, spoken of attempts by a purported 'budget mafia' in the Federal Government's bureaucracy to scuttle innovations introduced into the budget by inflating figures.

It was alleged the mafia proposed a budget of N9.7tn for capital spending and overhead, excluding personnel cost, as against the Presidency's initial total estimate of about N8tn.

The group was said to have proposed N3tn as overhead alone out of the N9.7tn, a figure the Presidency later slashed to N163bn.

The unnamed source in the Presidency, who claimed that the mafia was responsible for the controversial provisions in the eventual N6.07tn budget sent to the National Assembly by the Presidency, added that 'these bureaucrats also proposed to spend N2.1trn on personnel for the 2016 estimate compared to about N1.8tn in the 2015 budget.'

'But the Presidency also cut this down to N1.7tn in the final estimate sent to the legislature.''