BudgIT Faults Mark Over Claims On NASS Budget Details
Mark had last Monday during a retreat organised for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Assembly members-elect in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, insisted that NASS budget had been open to the public and disagreed on the need for the National Assembly to cut its budget in line with the current economic realities in the country. BudgIT has however faulted the claim.
In a statement sent to The Guardian yesterday, BudgIT insisted that the details of the NASS budget had not been placed in the public domain in the last five years.
According to BudgIT, no one can specifically state how the National Assembly spends its budget annually and no public library has any given information regarding this.
“BudgIT took NASS to court, challenging this unfortunate situation, where the same institution which passed the FOI Law refuse to obey it.
“As at today, Senator Mark’s NASS is spending scarce public funds to defend this lawsuit to ensure that a breakdown of the NASS budget never sees the light of public scrutiny.
“Mark’s anger at a call for transparency in its basic form shows the disdain with which he treats citizens’ demand for accountability.”
The group further said: “Every release of the NASS budget in the last five years only presented a single, total figure, which does not state exactly how much of taxpayers’ funds went into the personnel costs of NASS members, allowance and other agencies. This is typical of the National Assembly and other statutory,” BudgIT reiterated.
The Lead partner at BudgIT, Seun Onigbinde, said Mark seems to be under the erroneous impression that a single, blanket figure is transparent enough.
“The overwhelming desire of Nigerians is not Mark’s definition of transparency, but a full, line-by-line declaration of expenditure, available to citizens across every literary class, as evidenced by our #OpenNASS campaign,” Onigbinde said.
He explains: “In the Budget Implementation Report released by the Budget Office since 2011, a sum of N37.5bn (on a quarterly basis) was given to National Assembly without any refunds or detail of expenses.
“This does not follow international practices in the United Kingdom or the United States, where all expense sheets of parliamentarians are available online.”
He added: “Previously, on March 17, 2015, BudgIT, in collaboration with the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC) made a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to the Clerk of the National Assembly, requesting for a detailed breakdown of the NASS budget of N600 billion between 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Performance Reports for the NASS budget of N150 billion for 2011, 2012 and 2013 were also requested.
“This FOI request was necessitated by the long-standing secrecy around the NASS budget. From 1999 to date, an estimated budgetary provision of N1.26 trillion has been made to the National Assembly, with Nigerians routinely kept in the dark as to what or how this huge sum was spent.
“Nigerians deserve more information and respect as partners in government, in return for their votes and taxes. It is evident that the National Assembly has N150 billion allocated to it every year, for the last four years.”