Daily Trust (Abuja)

17 December 2012

Nigeria: Ministries, Agencies in End-of-Year Spending Spree - Investigation

Federal Government's ministries and agencies are blowing billions of naira in an apparent end-of-year spending spree to mop up unspent budgeted funds, Daily Trust investigations show.

Findings revealed that government offices are trying to ensure all the monies provided in their 2012 budget estimates are spent before the elapse of the fiscal year by the end of the month.

Sources told Daily Trust that accounting officers and heads of government offices have been very busy in the past two weeks coming up with ways to ensure the paper work is done to cover all expenditure.

The funds are mostly being spent by ministries and agencies on hurriedly-arranged trainings, workshops and seminars, in order to beat the December 31 deadline when government accounts will close in line with the budget law.

Among the spending items to organize the conferences are placement of newspaper and broadcast advertisements, hotel bills, conference papers as well as honorarium for resource persons and participants.

Most of the events are being organized in choice hotels in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and in some other state capitals.

Billions were earmarked in the 2012 budget for local and international training and so-called capacity building conferences.

An analysis of the 2012 budget show that these billions were captured in the ministries' budgets under sub-headings such as 'travels and transports: training'; as well as 'international travels and transports: training.'

Last-minute spending spree

During the past weeks, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) organised a workshop on professional assessment of its staff; National Communication Commission (NCC) held consumer forum in Oshogbo; Center for Black Culture held a conference in Osogbo; and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) held a three-day meeting with State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) chiefs in Asaba.

The Education ministry held examinations conference in Abuja; Nigeria Customs Service had a conference in Katsina; National Planning Commission's conference on state of GDP in Nigeria held in Abuja; NAFDAC's workshop for registration of Biosimidars in Lagos; and NACA's workshop on fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria held in Abuja.

In some instances, two different ministries organized separate workshops on the similar subjects, like the Ministry of Justice organized a workshop on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Abuja and days later the Ministry of Information also held another workshop on FOIA.

The Ministry of Information said its own workshop was on information management and good governance for national transformation. It also convened a meeting of the National Council on Information, which had state information commissioners in attendance.

Others are National Orientation Agency (NOA)'s workshop on youth skills acquisition; Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE)'s workshop for capital market correspondents in Lagos; NDIC's workshop on internal assessment of deposit insurance in Lagos; Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM)'s forum for laureates in Abuja and Institute of Public Analysis of Nigeria's workshop on sampling analysis and modern trend in Lagos.

Checks by this reporter over the past two weeks show that most of the big hotels in Abuja were hosting some training or workshop by various government agencies.

Some hotels even host more than two such meetings on same days.

In most of the hotels visited by Daily Trust in Wuse, Utako, Jabi, Garki, Asokoro, Maitama last week, there were more than three banners displayed at their gates indicating the presence of these agencies doing one form of programme or the other.

Daily Trust could not confirm the total amount of monies spent in the end-of-year spending spree, but the 2012 budget offers an insight through the sums voted for trainings, conferences and workshops.

For the outgoing year, some of the budgets for training are State House N1.9 billion, Foreign Affairs N3.196 billion, Finance N800 million, Health N424 million, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation N637 million, Defence N448, Niger Delta N449 and Petroleum N400 million.

There are also the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission N436 million, Information ministry N204 million, Justice N368 million, Lands N185 million, Power N298 million, Transport N285 million, Works N193 million and Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation N204 million.

'These jamborees must be probed'

Commenting, the Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Malam Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, said the National Assembly should investigate these spendings.

"The National Assembly must exercise its oversight function by looking into this spending spree by the MDAs," he said.

"It is a source of great concern to us for FG agencies to be organising jamborees simply to spend monies that are ordinarily meant to be returned to the national coffers at the tail end of the fiscal year," he added.

He said that these trainings "have no value for money. It is just a waste, the monies must be spent instead of sending back to the treasury."

In his response, the National Publicity Secretary of the Conference of National Political Parties (CNPP), Mr Osita Okechukwu, said "no amount of training or retreat can give us good roads, hospitals, refineries, universities, among others." He said "it is a paradox that even the 30 percent capital budget can't be implemented but the government agencies are busy wasting the colossal recurrent expenditure."

Okechukwu added that this "development speaks volume of the incumbent administration's lip service to blocking conduit of draining public funds. It is a sad development that every patriotic citizen must frown at."

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