President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the complete purge of the Budget Office because of the discrepancies and padding of the 2016 budget, The PUNCH has learnt.
Our correspondent gathered on Wednesday that the President handed down the directive following the embarrassment that the budget discrepancies had attracted to his government.
It will be recalled that Buhari had on Monday sacked Mr. Yahaya Gusau as the Director-General of the Budget Office for the same reason and approved the appointment of Mr. Tijjani Mohammed Abdullahi as his replacement. But a top government official who pleaded anonymity told The PUNCH on Wednesday that the President was not yet done with the issue.
The source said Buhari had been properly briefed of the activities of government officials in the Budget Office who were described as “budget mafia” and accused of sabotaging the budget process.
He said that a decision had been taken that while many of the identified officials would be sacked, the remaining ones should be posted out of the office.
He added that the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, had been directed to implement the presidential directive and communicate the decision to the affected officials.
The source said, “The President is really angry over the discrepancies discovered in the 2016 budget. It has been confirmed that it was a clear case of sabotage. It was said to have been carried out by a budget mafia whose members are strongly enshrined in the office.
“The President’s decision is that the former Director-General should not be the only casualty in this matter.
“He has ordered that the Budget Office should be purged. Many of the officials there will be sacked while others will be transferred to other places other than where they have already constituted themselves to a mafia.”
When asked when the President’s directive would take effect, the source said “it is with immediate effect.”
In sacking Guasu as DG, Budget Office on Monday, Buhari had also approved the appointment of Mr. Ben Akabueze as the Special Adviser on Planning to the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
Sources in the Presidency had, on February 6, alleged that a budget mafia planned to scuttle the innovations introduced by the current administration into the budget by inflating the figures.
A mafia was alleged to have proposed a budget of N9.7tn for capital and overhead spending, excluding personnel cost, as against the Presidency’s initial estimate of about N8tn. The group was said to have proposed N3tn as overheads alone out of the N9.7tn, a figure the Presidency later slashed to N163bn.
The Ministry of Budget and National planning had also promised to investigate and punish those responsible for the errors and strange figures found in the budget, which was presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari in December, 2015.
The errors had delayed the passage of the budget with the federal legislature, saying the February 25 deadline it set for its approval was no longer feasible.