The Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, has confirmed that about 428 Federal Government agencies would not be able to pay salaries by the end of November due to paucity of funds.
Akabueze stated this on Tuesday while appearing before Senate Public Account Committee to discuss the implementation of the new minimum wage, attributed the development to lack of funds and the fact that the 2019 budget had already been prepared before the Federal Government announced a new minimum wage regime.
He noted, however, that the Federal Government was considering helping the affected agencies by releasing funds from the Service Wide Vote to cater for the shortfall in the civil servants’ salaries for the month of November.
“About 428 agencies will not be able to pay salaries by the end of November. We may need to take from the Service Wide Vote to take care of the shortfall in the workers’ salaries,” he said.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Mathew Urhoghide, accused the executive of deliberately underfunding the Office of Auditor General of the Federation.
The chairman wondered why an agency, meant to fight institutional corruption, should be underfunded by the government while other agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission were being properly funded.
“The continued underfunding of the Office of Auditor General of the Federation, which is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of ensuring transparency, accountability and probity in governance is unacceptable,” he said.
“Therefore, the proposed budget of N4.6bn for the office in 2021 may not be adequate to audit N13tn in the 2021 budget proposal of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“The Office of the Auditor General for the federation is in need of replacing 247 retired staff which was not provided for in the budget proposal.
“The promotion and annual increment of staff were also not factored into the year 2021 budget.
“There is need to digitalise and automate the system of the specialised audit which was also proposed in the year 2021 budget for the office.”
Responding to the issue of underfunding of the Office of the Auditor General of Federation, Akabueze explained that the budget office would only appropriate funds to the Office of Auditor General of Federation based on the extant laws
He said since his emergence as the Director General of the budget office, there has been an improvement in the budget of Office of Auditor General of the Federation.
He explained that when it comes to capital budget, the office was guided by the approved budget for the agencies.
He said the government could not give any approval for the recruitment in 2020 due to the COVID-19, adding that it was illogical for the government to recruit during the pandemic.
The sectors that did not shut down recruitment during the COVID-19 were health and security sectors, he added