N118bn: Experts tackle FG over unspent capital vote

Economic experts have cautioned the federal government’s transparency quotient following the return of N118bn to the treasury of the Consolidate revenue Fund of the FG by Ministries, Departments and Agencies despite list of growing abandoned projects in the country.

This is heightened by the fact that the return only came to light after strident, repeated demands for explanation of capital vote expenditure for 2017 (which is still not ready), and only after the Auditor General of the Federation gave his verdict that poor bookkeeping, profligacy and gross abuse of extant financial regulations still characterized expenditure pattern in fiscal year 2016.

A director in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, who prefers anonymity said the return of the huge sum is the direct outcome of the return to the envelope system of allocation to MDAs, (bulk allocation to MDAs, instead of project-specific releases adopted in the first two years of the current administration.

On their part, fiscal governance experts are blaming alleged flagrant display of incompetence, indolence and unending tardiness causing late budget preparation and passage, as well as, unnecessary length of procurement processes, hence the return of N118b.

Besides, experts insist that it is a gross display of irresponsibility for the country to borrow huge funds in the name of capital expenditure items, with associated interest rates, only for the government to keep the fund idle, while the country groans under the burden of parlous infrastructure.

A breakdown of the unspent capital votes indicated that the largest chunk of N66.9b was returned by the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing; the sum of N22.8b from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry; N6.1b from the Office of the National Security Adviser, and the sum of N3.5b from the Federal Ministry of Health.

Also returned was the sum of N4.3b from the Federal Ministry of Finance; N3.5b from the Federal Ministry of Health; N1.8b from the Education Ministry; N1b from Water Resources Ministry and N3.5b from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); among other agencies.

 But all that is now in the past following rising oil prices leading to elevated revenue to the Federal Government, which has equally returned to bulk allocation to MDAs, including funds for projects not properly prepared for execution.

Definitely, it would be impossible to execute because there’s no way you can even progress to procurement when these basic conditions have not been fulfilled. But you can get details from the concerned MDAs, the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. They are the right people to give you details. We even depend on the information they provide us before we go to the field for monitoring and evaluation,” the official further said.