Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Bleeding Nation - Need for Accountability

As the President lays gracefully on the sick bed in Saudi Arabia, Ministers and Permanent Secretaries have being busy defending their 2010 budget allocation at the National Assembly. This exercise is what we call ‘Budget Estimates’ hearing here in Australia. The Estimates process, whilst it exposes problems, it certainly serves to reassure the “average voter” that the Government and the bureaucracy are being held accountable.

Accountability is very important in any democratic governance. Public funds should be spent for public purposes by Governments and bureaucrats. It is not the private purse of the Government that bureaucrats or ministers can do what they like with. These are public funds for public purposes and should stand the test of public scrutiny. We should be able to hold the government responsible for its policies and the ministers/bureaucrats to be held responsible for the expenditure of public money.

The simple reasons for having an ‘Estimates’ hearing is to ensure that principles of probity, accountability and transparency are enshrined in the governance process. But in the case of Nigeria, some of the revelations coming of out 2010 budget allocation hearing are quite astonishing to say the least.

Some of these revelations are a sad reminder of how the nation is continuously been bled, by the ruling elites. Billions of naira is either been spent or allocated for frivolous expenses.

Let’s start with the Information and Communications Ministry. Mrs Dora Akunyili plans to spend N325 million on the Rebranding Project. This is more than half of the Ministry’s capital budget for 2010. This is in addition to the N129.2milion spent on the project in 2009. Is it not ludicrous that despite the criticism levelled at the rebranding project, this government is still hell bent on wasting almost N450milion on a silly ‘cosmetic’ exercise. And by the way, what happened to the N600million spent by the Obasanjo regime on the ‘Heart of Africa’ project? The long and short of this is, by the end of 2010, the Nigeria would have spent over N1billion on ‘cosmetic surgery’.

What about the budget of over N1.1billion submitted by the State House for the treatment of termites in the Presidential Villa (Aso Rock) and vehicle maintenance? How can the State House justify spending N250milion for termite treatment? What sort of termites are they? Also how many vehicles are been maintained at a yearly cost of N450million?

We also learnt during the week that, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe engaged in incessant foreign trips throughout this year which cost the public till about N2.7 billion in 2009 alone. This was just shortly after the Speaker of the House Representative, Dimeji Bankole, confirmed that the House of Reps spent N24billion on foreign travel in 2009. Haba! So if the House of Rep and Ojo Maduekwe spent a combined N26.7billion, then what about the Senate, The President, State Governors and other Ministers. Only heaven knows how much former President Obasanjo spent during his eight rule on foreign travel, considering that he was overseas junketing from one country to the other for over 300 days during his first term in office.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources was no exception. The Ministry’s budget proposal was noted to be full of ambiguities and repetitions. It was discovered that a provision of N600 million for the construction of gas master plan in the 2010 budget, was given for the same project last year. Ha! Ha!!

The recent revelations from the Senate hearing validate the widely held perception of politicians and bureaucrats as being lazy, wasteful and fat-cats. It makes the public become more cynical and mistrusting of the politics, politicians and the political process.

The simple fact remains that, the taxpayers deserve to how public money is being spent and the justification by the Government of their policies which led to the expenditure of that money.

For, if accountability and transparency should fail, then the very confidence that is necessary to sustain a democracy will be shattered and one cringes to think what the alternative system would look like.

The legislature does have a real and major role to play. Unless we continue to have a thorough and genuine scrutiny of the policies and expenditure of Government , then there is likely to be little faith or trust in the political system.

And just before I go, I wish you all a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year.

I will be back again in 2010.

1 comment:


all those millions of naira are just so dizzying, aren't they? Only in Nigeria. Nice post. Merry Christmas.