It is given that a budget, anywhere in the world, is a mere guiding plan influenced by many contingencies. This being as it may, it is also given that the implementing agencies or arm of government will strive as much as possible to adhere to the provisions of the budget and in some climes it attracts strict compliance. The non-implementation of the Appropriation Act or deviation from it could only be excused for one factor only: contingency.
The case, however, has not been so in Nigeria for some time now; a situation which has attracted criticisms and condemnations.
For a number of years in Nigeria, the national budget has become a mere paper document which implementation has not only been largely jettisoned but left to the whims and caprices of the executive. The effects of this sad development are as many as they are grave.
In the immediate past year (2017), it was reported that there was only about 20 per cent implementation of the budget. In 2016, the implementation was 59 percent and it was extended to June 2017for this to be achieved. Those of 2015 and 2014 did not fare better. A trend of non (optimum) implementation had been set. Curiously, this was not the case during the military era. The reason, according to experts was that military administrations had rolling plans.
The chief effect of non implementation is zero or at best snail speed progress in the land. It is, therefore, our opinion that, no government will jettison its Appropriation Act and hope to succeed in the provision of the necessary things to the governed.
This, probably, necessitated the Senate on January, 16, 2018 deliberating on a Bill seeking to provide stiff penalties, including impeachment, for non-implementation of the budget.
The bill, which the legislature said would be passed before the end of this legislative session, also provides specific timeline for the preparation, consideration and enactment of national budgets.
The bill emanated from reports of the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) after series of engagements with stakeholders on the budget process revealed that the lack of sufficient and comprehensive regulatory framework for the budget process has become a serious obstacle to effective budget implementation in Nigeria.
But it was not the first time the NASS had touched on this rather unbecoming act of the government. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had on June 15, 2017, reminded the presidency that non implementation of the Appropriation Act is an impeachable offence.
Dogara also insisted that the National Assembly has powers to introduce new projects, add, remove or reduce items in the Appropriation Bills in a presidential system of government.
In its reaction to the Senate, the presidency described the planned imposition of penalties as unrealistic, just as it pointed out that implementation of budget is based on availability of funds, hence it would be difficult to sanction anyone for it.
Section 33 of the Bill states that anybody found to have breached any of the budget processes would be deemed to have committed an act of misconduct. Sanctions provided in section 35 of the bill against any public officer, legislator, or civil servants found to have committed such acts of misconduct include impeachment, suspension from office, written warning, removal of chairmanship of committee and termination of employment.
It lists such acts of misconduct to include failure to implement a budget project where appropriated funds are available to implement such project, failure to take reasonable care or necessary steps to ensure that there is compliance with the law by one’s institution, colleagues or subordinates, non-compliance with the budget process calendar, refusal to carry out official duty and attempt to prevent another official, public servant or civil servant from discharging his function.
While we agree that there should be definite sanctions for individuals and bodies found culpable in the non implementation of budget, we advise that the law should be holistic.
It is also imperative that the people in the process and procedure of preparing the budget should be above board as the process itself is precipitated on fraud and skewed against its implementation. Those saddled with the responsibility hence, should eschew the various antics and (mis) conducts which usually characterise the making of the Nigerian budget generally believed to be fraught with fraud labelled with many nomenclatures.
However, the NASS should know that when prescribing sanctions, some should be for its members as they are no doubt part of the clog obstructing effective and optimum implementation of the Appropriation Act.
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