2024 Budget: Tackle fiscal, debt, food, procurement crises, Akande advises Tinubu

Laolu Akande on Channels TV

By Marvellous Nyang

A former presidential spokesperson,
Laolu Akande has urged President Bola Tinubu to prioritize tackling the lingering problems of procurement and pricing in Nigeria’s budget.

Akande, who is Channels TV’s in-house political analyst, said this while analysing the 2024 Budget Proposal on the TV’s Sunrise Daily on Friday, December 1, 2023.

He explained that the line budget in the year-on-year budgetary system should be reviewed to aid the government in reducing its spending.

Akande, a former editor noted that the inflation of government budgets has been a bottleneck in using scarce resources meticulously, as he identified four crises that the Nigerian government should quickly address, namely, (i) fiscal vs debt; (ii) procurement and pricing
(iii) Food crisis and inflation and (iv) government insensitivity.

Asked to explain why line items like furniture and vehicles reoccur in the budget every year, he said, “I remember that one of the first things the Buhari administration did in 2015 was to try and change the culture or the process of how the budget is developed. So you have two options. The first option which is prevalent most of the time is that the line items are essentially treated as routine – this was what we did last year, this was what we did two years ago – and it is just pushed again with a little bit of review at times looking at the changes in the pricing and stuff like that.

“For the most part, compared to a system where we are trying to say let us start afresh. Let’s take a fresh look at what is it that money should be spent on, that was critical then because the past administration was trying to shift the focus into putting more money into the issue of human capital development.”

Quizzed on the success rate of budget concepts – envelope system vs the zero budgeting system during the Buhari administration, he stated, “There was a bit of pushback when they wanted to move to that zero budgeting, to say that look let’s just start afresh from scratch. It got a bit of resistance, I think both systemic and I think there wasn’t sufficient political will to push the zero budgeting concept, that was what happened. To your question, there are quite a few things that one sees in this interesting budget, that are good. The government is trying to make a good attempt to reduce the deficit, a significant cut, from 6% to 3%, very important.

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Explaining the pros and cons of the 2024 budget, Akande highlighted the following. “There is a clear attempt to spend more money on human capital development – education and health (in 2 trillion, 1 trillion) quite important. There is also the effort and the statement of the President that say let us do more of private public partnership, especially in the areas of critical infrastructure.

“You see all of those good things, but the problem here is that I see four levels of crisis that we are dealing with which requires us to be even more deliberate in terms of what we are dealing with. We have the fiscal crisis, there is a fiscal crisis on this end and there’s a debt crisis on this end, on two different levels, so we need to raise more money and it is a crisis. If we can raise more money, then the issue of the looming debt can begin to simmer down.

“That is a big one and I think the President (Tinubu) seems to have some kind of experience based on what happened in Lagos. That is going to be one element to measure the seriousness and the success or the failure of this government, the ability to raise more money. And like I said, I think he has some good record in that. That is the first crisis, the second crisis is the food crisis (inflation crisis).

“Just like Rewane said, if people cannot find a positive impact as soon as possible something has to be done in a very radical way to address the food crisis, the inflation of the basic food stock that people eat is very, very critical. I don’t see a lot of the specific action that will be taken and I hope that will be coming forth.

Detailing the third crisis, Akande urged Tinubu to focus more on correcting the lapses in procurement. “The third crisis is the procurement crisis, now this is a big deal and we have not talked enough about it. We have a system where they bring the line items, the pricing that the government brings is outrageous. I find it outrageous in my eight years of experience. So you want to build a borehole, if I wanted to build a borehole I would probably get it done for N600,000 or less but guess when the government comes, it puts a price tag of N5 million on the same borehole, we understand that there has to be some kind of markup but that culture is becoming so insensitive considering what the Nigerian people are going through.

“There has to be a very, very good look at this procurement issue. The other problem with procurement is that it causes delays when you need to get things done very quickly and I see that the President has set up a committee that is going to be chaired by the Attorney General of the Federation to try and look at this procurement stuff and I think they should pay attention to the pricing, it is a scandal the kind pricing that happens,” Akande said.