There are indications that another case of budget padding which occurred in the 2016 budget is set to repeat itself this year.
Recall that the 2016 budget was enmeshed in a budget padding scandal which till date has not been resolved.
At the Ministries budget defence hearing in the Senate yesterday, Minister of Road, Works and Housing Fashola denied knowledge of N2 billion vote for regional housing scheme in the 2017 budget after the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Development, Barnabas Gemade inquired about the presence of the strange vote which never appeared in the previous budget.
In his defense, Fashola said that the N2 billion was inserted by officials in the Ministry of Finance. He insisted that it is not a project of the Ministry of Housing, that it was not part of the projects that they submitted and he has no knowledge about it.
Gemade afterwards said that the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, will be invited to explain the essence of the project and why Fashola was not aware of it.
The following conversation ensued between Minister of Road, Works and Housing Fashola and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Development, Barnabas Gemade:
Gemade: Finally, what is this provision of N2bn for regional housing scheme? What is regional housing scheme? Where is it taking place? What is happening? Have you seen it on Page 18?
Fashola: It is not our project. It came in from, I think, the Budget (Office). It is a Ministry of Finance initiative; saying that they want to do what they called ‘family homes’. It is not from us.
Gemade: Yes, but they have put it here; otherwise, we will not be in the position to accept it.
Fashola: I know as much of it as you do sir.
Gemade: But you are here to defend this budget in totality.
Fashola: That is why I have come. I am explaining to you now, sir, on how it comes into our budget. That is not what we submitted. We didn’t submit that proposal.
Gemade: So, will the ministry be kind enough to tell the people who put this in this budget to come forward and let us know?
Gemade: Let us know what is regional housing programme because government cannot be operated in secrecy.
Fashola: I think the committee, if you permit me to bring this suggestion…
Gemade: …should invite them?
Fashola: Yes, sir.
Gemade: But you know the people; we don’t know them.
Fashola: No, sir. We just said finance sir.
Gemade: Finance ministry?
Fashola: Yes sir.
Gemade: We will write to the minister.
Fashola: Please do sir.
Gemade: (Pointing to the committee’s secretariat) Write to the minister: We have seen this line, which costs N2bn. Let them send information here for us to know what it is all about.