Finance Minister Denies Padding 2023 Budget, Blames Wrong Code Selection

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Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed has denied the claim that the 2023 budget was padded.

In a statement released by the Finance Minister’s Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Yunusa Tanko Abdullahi, days after the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management alleged that N206,242,395,000 found its way into its budget without its knowledge, it was stated that the Finance Ministry has taken steps to increase transparency in the budgeting process.

Zainab Ahmed also stated that the funds in question were only wrongly captured in the budget estimates submitted to the National Assembly.

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“The project so referred to is domiciled in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development headquarters. The World Bank is the funding source for the National Social Safety Net-Scale Up project to the tune of $473,500,000 which is equivalent to N206,242,395,000, using the N435.57/USD exchange rate.

“The project was correctly described in the submission from the International Economic Relations Department (IERD) for the 2023 budget. But, unfortunately, a wrong code was selected from the drop-down menu which resulted in a wrong description of the project which resulted in it being captured as ‘Purchase of Security Equipment’ in the Government Integrated Financial Management Information (GIFMIS) Budget Preparation System (BPS).

“Please, note that the BPS has a limited range of encoded programme/project descriptions. Also note that the multilateral loans are usually project-tied, and have specific codes in the budget system. The multilateral loans are different from the envelopes usually given to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“The funds are drawn by the beneficiary ministries under the terms of the agreements, and the financial institutions disburse directly to service providers.

“There were ample opportunities to review details for observations by ministries and corrections made by the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF).”

The minister who revealed that the proposed 2023 budget for each ministry was circulated for review and feedback before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) reviewed it and was submitted to the National Assembly by President Buhari, also commented on the refurbishment and procurement of Harris RF-5/7800 military communication equipment by the Ministry of Defence.

Ahmed said President Muhammadu Buhari approved 50 per cent of the requirement for phases 2 & 3 (using the exchange rate of N435.57/USD), amounting to N8,600,000,000 and had been included in the 2023 budget.

On the 2023 Multilateral/Bilateral Tied-Loan project for the Ministry of Power, the ministry said the four projects total USD448,757,149, which is N195, 465,151,790 and would be implemented by the World Bank, AfDB and Export-Import Bank of China.