The defence of this year’s budget estimates by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, commenced yesterday with the Senate Committee on Education (Basic and Secondary), exposing a N10 billion fraud which officials of the ministry could not account for.
Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, who appeared before the committee was shell shocked when his attention was drawn to the sum carefully hidden into budgets of parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Education.
He queried Anwuka why the personnel budget for parastatal under the ministry was hiked from N88, 199,311,758 billion in 2015 to N98, 181,570,237 billion in the 2016 budget document.
Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, a member of the committee, had drawn the attention of other members to the fact that in 2015 personnel cost of parastatal in the ministry amounted to N88,119,758, pointing out that it was increased to N98,181,570,237.
Adeyeye wondered while parastatal which were meant to support the institutions should have their personnel budget increased by such a huge volume, and, therefore, demanded for explanation.
He said: “If you look at personnel cost on page 28, almost every sub-sector of the ministry lost some money except parastatal that got increase. What is special about the parastatal that they gained more than universities, colleges, polytechnics and unity schools? Why should the parastatal that are meant to serve them keep growing in personnel cost?”
The minister pushed the question to the permanent secretary who said they would go back to look into it.
“We will go back and find the aggregate of the parastatal put together so that we can look into the details and find out those that are increasing and the difference between them,” she said.
Dissatisfied by that response, Adeyeye insisted that the ministry must explain how the sum of about N10 billion was added to the parastatal personnel budget at the expense of institutions which actually need budget increase.
He said: “The budget of the parastatal have N9 billion extra while others lose money. We can’t have a situation where schools are losing money and parastatal are gaining. How did parastatal have such a quantum leap?”
The committee was not convinced by the claim that a typical Nigerian institution would deliberately cut its budget by as much as N16 billion.
Therefore, the chairman, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, ruled that the permanent secretary and the ministry should go back to the drawing board “and come up with a more sensible overhead cost.”