(By Emejuiwe Victor)
“In January 2012, there were excuses on the need to remove fuel subsidy, the proceeds of which would go to cushion the pangs of the ripples consequent on the removal on the poor. The government did a lot of propaganda on this subject laden with beautiful promises. These promises were to be largely enjoyed in the transport sector, employment generation scheme, road construction, skills empowerment etc. Two years down the line, Nigerians are still suffering the same problems the government promised to solve.”
THE trend of government public expenditure can be characterised as “labyrinth”, the word labyrinth simply means something that is very complicated (Encarta Dictionary). While fiduciary has to do with trusting government to stand behind money. Over the years trillions of naira have been expended by government on infrastructural facilities and on the growth of the economy, but this growth is not visible amongst the poor. It is, therefore, necessary to examine the complication around the public expenditure pattern of government. The responsibility of managing the common resources of the citizens is left in the hands of government. Albeit, are these resources well managed for the common good of the citizens? This question can only be answered by the citizens themselves.
The President just gave an account of his stewardship as contained in the mid-term report of his two years in office. In this report, the Federal Government appraised itself in different sectors of the economy but also urged Nigerians to prepare a marking scheme to score his achievements. The co-coordinating minister of the Economy on May 29, 2013, also gave an assertive speech on the green-face of the economy. Amongst her postulations were that; Nigeria’s economy is growing at 6.5 per cent, one of the fastest in Africa, Exchange Rate is stable (N155-160), reserves are rising, and inflation has reduced. Every other minister represented on the occasion also had one or two positive achievements to mention about their sector. These claims of accomplishments, together with the daily media propaganda of the transformation agenda of the President seem to be occurring only to the benefit of the elite. The growing rate of poverty, insecurity, infrastructural decrepit , unemployment, low income earnings, high mortgage rates, high lending rates, to mention but a few, are a sharp contrast to what the government transformation claims to be offering. If Nigerians were to score the President, the harsh realities confronting them on a daily basis would definitely earn his Administration a disappointing score.
In January 2012, there were excuses on the need to remove fuel subsidy, the proceeds of which would go to cushion the pangs of the ripples consequent on the removal on the poor. The government did a lot of propaganda on this subject laden with beautiful promises. These promises were to be largely enjoyed in the transport sector, employment generation scheme, road construction, skills empowerment etc. Two years down the line, Nigerians are still suffering the same problems the government promised to solve.
Buses were provided under SURE-P all right, but transportation cost in all parts of the country is at an alarming rate. Employable graduates still roam the streets looking for non-existent jobs. Those employed temporarily under SURE-P programme are less than 0.5 per cent of the 26 per cent employable graduate. The salaries offered to those employed are mere stipends. Promises were made to empower women who reside in the rural areas. However, the impact is not felt anywhere. A random visitation to most rural communities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) showed that no women had benefited from any form of empowerment from SURE-P. There were promises to construct railways. Although we have heard news of railway tracks being constructed in some parts of the country, in FCT the site mapped out for the tracks lie untouched, it remains a fantasy.
In fairness to the government, some developmental works might be on-going, but at a snail speed, which makes them not to have immediate impact on the people. It is also clear that some projects are meant to be long term with long-term benefits. Nevertheless, the immediate needs of the people have to be considered and given immediate attention. The needs of Nigerians are many, but the basic ones have to be met. To achieve this, the government has to inculcate pro-poor policies in its agenda. In as much as long-term projects are beneficial, the government should give equal attention to short-term projects as well. Long-term projects are a continuous process that have always been, and will always be carried out by successive administrations. Most of the infrastructural facilities standing today were constructed during the military era, but that has still not taken away poverty from the lives of Nigerians.
While encouraging the need for developmental works to be carried out by government, there are some factors that seem labyrinth; first amongst them is the commensurate value of the money expended for projects in Nigeria when compared to other countries. Take the issue of road construction, for example, Nigerian roads hardly meet the standard condition of thickness and durability yet they cost more than what obtains in other countries. The second factor is procurement process, the process of awards of contracts, terms of payment to contractors, time duration of contracts and evaluation seem to be a labyrinth. The Public Procurement Act of 2007 provides for competition, after which the best responsive bidder is given the contract. Under the fundamental principles of procurement as contained in Section 16, procurement must be done based on competitive bidding, in a manner which is transparent, timely and equitably accountable. It must also be done with the aim of getting value for money and fitness for purpose. It must promote competition, economy and efficiency.
To be continued
• Victor is a procurement specialist, Academy for Social Justice Abuja.
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