Budget Padding: A New Way To Steal ?
As the budget padding controversy rages on members of the public wonder what's next.
When it comes to pilfering public funds Nigerian politicians ought to be awarded a Nobel Prize for the ingenious ways they devise to keep their fingers in the till. They will always find a way to circumvent whatever security firewalls are put in place.
Gone are the days when politicians used to be content with a ten percent commission from contracts awarded to friends and families. Now its widespread looting as seen in the days of the tenure of ex-President Goodluck. Then it was as if certain politicians had a key to the back door to the Treasury and helped themselves to whatever they wanted.
When President Buhari was sworn in last year he embarked upon a campaign to rid the country of corruption.
He was wrong.
Under his watch the sneaky politicians had devised a new way to steal money and without a doubt it's been going on, for a while, unnoticed. It's called 'budget padding'.
To the uninitiated budget padding simply means you indulge in a bit of creative accounting and inflate the budget of a ministry, department or project, by a number of extra zeros for instance, to accommodate any unforeseen expenses. So if you have budget of N10 Million Naira you add a further N2.5 Million Naira to 'pad' it. Legally it's okay to do this (even though it's deemed by the experts to be unethical and wasteful) as long as the excess, you no longer need, is remitted back to the Treasury at the end of the financial year and not creamed off into the back pockets of those who intend to steal it.
So the 2016 budget has been inflated by more than 40 Billion Naira and the President is furious. He swiftly re-assigned 184 key budget officials (- perhaps sacked some!) and brought in the EFCC to investigate.
It's all and fair that the officials will be investigated and punished but the key question to ask is who ordered it. Most of those re-deployed officials were merely just following instructions handed down to them by somebody higher up. As employees who are they to question their employer/Boss' orders?
There are quite a few key suspects but since the matter is being dealt with by the EFCC and the courts it'll be wrong to name anyone – innocent until proven guilty! And if the Nigerian judiciary is anything to go by securing a conviction might take till eternity since our politicians are a dab hand at playing the system. Those accused might try to use the legal loophole that what they were doing was legal and the excess money would be returned to the Treasury at the end of the financial year – and not into their pockets as we all know was the true intention.
So budget padding is the new way to steal money? What's next?
Written by Tony Ogunlowo.