Nigeria’s foremost civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement to facilitate societal change, BudgIT has put the Minister for Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola and the Ministry to task on the funds released for capital projects in the 2016 Appropriation.
The organisation is reacting to a recent statement credited to the Public Relations office of the Ministry that “no new contracts have been awarded to date based on 2016 Appropriation & as such no single kobo has been paid.”
While expressing their shock over the said declaration by the ministry, BudgIT recalled that the financial report document released by the Office of the Accountant General revealed a sum of N170,425,193,94 was released to the Ministry as at October 2016 from a total capital budget of N353bn.
It therefore, described the statements from the ministry as ‘unequivocally shocking’, thereby calling on the authorities to explain the disparities.
“We are dismayed by the recent revelation by the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing that ‘no new contracts have been awarded to date based on 2016 Appropriation & as such no single kobo has been paid.’ We find the declaration unequivocally shocking and thereby question the statement released by the Public Relations office of the Ministry.”
According to them, “if the funds released to the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing are meant for old projects, what projects did the Ministry spend N170bn on?
The Ministry of Works, Power and Housing should provide information on the projects currently being implemented, the actual cost released for each project, name of the contractors and the locations of the projects. This is a basic requirement to measure the judicious utilisation of public funds by any public office.”
BudgIT noted that as at October 2016, the Finance ministry stated N753bn as the total capital release with no comprehensive details of projects the funds were released for.
It noted that the organisation is dedicated to improving the standard of transparency and ensuring public funds are utilised effectively and efficiently for the satisfaction of the citizens.
“It is pertinent to note that this issue was covered in our FOI Request to the Ministry dated December 6, 2016 to which the ministry has refused to respond to till date. The Freedom of Information Act 2011 mandates every public office to provide information to the general public when requested. If the information we requested for – information about how public fund is being expended – was released within the time stipulated by law, this denial would have been unnecessary.
We did not request for nuclear codes nor details that could be dubbed as ‘threats to National Security’; we have only requested that governance functions the way it oughts to.” BudgIT said.
The organisation which is reputed for scrutinizing the budgets since its inception lamented that government fails when citizens do not hold trust in the dealings of an administration, hence the necessity to ensure there is mutual trust between government and the citizens through transparency.
“We have chewed this on many occasions that there is a deliberate attempt to keep citizens out of loop with respect to information. The lack of responsible public information breeds bad perception. The implication of this singular act could be measured on investment and investors who struggle to trust an opaque system with funds.” It noted.
They however implore the Federal Government and public agencies to imbibe the culture of open government by proactively disclosing information on public spending and ensure that implementation reports are released on time.
According to them, the Federal Government’s anti-graft war needs more openness to work efficiently.