Start 2018 budget process early, CSO advises FG

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Mr Oluseun Onigbinde, Lead Partner, BudgIT, a Civil Society Organisation, has called on the Federal Government to begin early, the process of the 2018 budget, to avoid delay in its implementation.

Onigbinde gave the advice in Abuja on Thursday.

BudgIT is an organisation that advocates for open data, accountability and transparency in governance.

Onigbinde, said that allowing the implementation of the budget to run into another calendar year gives room for lapses and opportunity for inefficiencies.

“We should finish the implementation of the 2017 budget by December and then start the 2018 budget.

“Let us go back to the calendar cycle, start the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) conversation now, so that by October the President presents the budget and it is passed by December.’’

He attributed the challenges in budget implementation in the present administration to the delay in the appointment of ministers by President Muhammadu Buhari upon assumption of office.

According to him, if the ministers were appointed earlier, the 2016 budget would have been released much earlier.

Onigbinde said that the National Assembly while passing the 2016 Appropriation Bill added a clause that it would run for one year from the point where it was signed to enable it enjoy a full year cycle.

He, however, said that this was not helpful, because the nation’s revenue target was planned on a calendar year basis, therefore, planning expenditure on a financial year basis made it lopsided.

“We need a legislation to set a specific date to present the budget to the national assembly and until we are able to get that done, development can be challenging.

“Even though the law allows you to spend for six months if the budget is not ready, you are not allowed to introduce new projects into it and that does not help.

“So even if the budget is signed into law now, do not forget that recurrent expenditure has started since January and the only thing that is actually delayed in the budget is the capital expenditure.

“Salaries are being paid since January and those salaries will be captured in the 2017 budget not in the 2016 budget.

“So the way we are planning is improper, the recurrent starts from one point and the capital starts from another, I think that is not good enough.’’

On the issue of agencies not submitting their budgets on time for scrutiny by the national assembly, Onigbinde said that it was a bad precedence set by the federal government.

He said that the concern of the legislature over non-submission of budget by the agencies was tenable, because it was inappropriate to spend funds without appropriation, most especially from the capital point.

“This is very important and when the budget is presented to the national assembly, let it be open.

“The national assembly has opened its budget, so let every single government agency open their budget so that it can be interrogated and critiqued, that is what we want.’’

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