By Racheal Ishaya
Mr. Ben Akabueze, the Director-General, Budget office of the Federation, has said the government was forced to cut overhead allocations to Ministries, Departments and Agencies due to dwindling revenue.
Akabueze made the explanation on Thursday in Abuja when the Management of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), led by its Managing Director, Mr Bayo Onanuga, paid him a visit.
“The picture you’ve painted about declining overhead allocation cuts across all agencies of government. And the primary reason is that government has grown excessively. It’s not like the aggregate overhead budget has reduced. No it hasn’t. It is increasing.
“Last year, for instance, the aggregate overhead budget was N163 billion and 2017, we sent N226 billion.
“It may not necessarily translate to any significant change in what you get, because government has got too many agencies that didn’t exist at that time when you were getting N40 million per month. They now exist, ’’ he said.
Akabueze said the 2016 budget had underperformed its revenue projections as government recorded total revenue of N2.9 trillion only.
“In 2016, we required N1.3 trillion to pay interest on loans and N2.2 trillion to pay personnel, so by the time, you pay personnel, pay interest on debt, you are already at N2.5 trillion and your total revenue is N2.9 trillion.
“So your total revenue is taken up by personnel and interest on loans and that is why overheads are not released on time because it takes least priority.
“Right now we are in May and overheads have only been released for January and February, yet everyone has collected salaries up to April and are warming up to collect for May,’’ he said.
Akabueze said that in the 2017 budget, personnel cost and pension eat up 30 per cent of the budget while debt servicing plus interest takes up another 25 per cent.
“In the decade up to 2015, the country spent an average of 10 per cent on capital expenditure. That is part of why the economy is at the state it is today with very poor infrastructure.
“The present administration has set a policy to spend at least 30 per cent on capital infrastructure.
“So personnel, pensions, debt servicing and capital expenditure, eat up 85 per cent, leaving 15 per cent for statutory transfers to National Assembly, Judiciary, service wide charges and overhead cost of running all of government.
“By the time you finish all of this, you’ll find that the overhead cost is the last to be paid. So overhead cost has been taking the brunt of this situation,’’ he said.
He said that to address this, the government may have to look at implementing the Oronsaye report, which proposed the scrapping and merging of several agencies with similar functions.
Earlier, the NAN Managing Director decried the consistent under allocation to the agency from the federal government budget.
“Our monthly overhead approval is around N10.3 million down from about N40 million. And we are running an organisation that incurs a running cost of about N38 million a month.
“This is a challenge because we operate from 36 states and 22 district offices.
He explained that the Agency has 850 personnel out of which 501 are journalists.
Onanuga called for increased allocation to NAN, to enable it meet the mandate for which it was set up.
He said the Agency wants to embark on projects that would revolutionalise its role and be able to compete internationally as expected.
The Managing Director explained that the Agency had mapped out a lot of projects that would assist in making it less reliant on government’s subvention but it needs money to implement the projects’
“You use money to look for money,’’ he said.