by Nana Nwachukwu
“I’ve told you to stop acting foolish and senseless at times! Sometimes, you just behave as if the light bulb went off in your head…ahn ahn! So how did you expect me to understand this mess of figures without explanation and proper analysis? I’ve warned you that you are my eye out there, be careful because if any mistake happens out there, I ge the blame. Stop trying my patience. I’ve warned you”
That was my boss getting upset over the ‘figures’ I submitted for her approval. No, I didn’t make any error in the figures and Yes, my boss is diligent that’s why she won’t be bamboozled into nonsense or good stuff without being sure of that stuff. She’s really busy; in fact, you cannot imagine what she has to handle on a daily basis. That’s why she expects me to get these things in order, make inputs and be ready with necessary explanations.
Let me paint a little picture for you. In a government establishment, every document that comes in must pass through the legal unit for advice. Every little job that will be done must pass through same unit for scrutiny. Every company that transacts with the establishment must be verified for registration compliance and tax compliance. The feedbacks from FIRS and Corporate Affairs Commission must pass through her table. The government is structured in such a way that for information to be tracked, it has to get back to the person who sent it out in some way.
Do you often wonder how the government gets the really large figures that are thrown around in papers? No, calm down, am not here to defend Jonathan or the laughable N60bn for farmers project, neither am I here to defend Sambo’s house. Yes, now we are clear, you still wonder abi? Those figures come from you and I, from our siblings, our parents, our friends, our ‘tight-people’, and our social media friends.
How is a budget prepared? It begins from my tiny office, from your tiny office too. You may say, am in the private sector, how does that bother me or how do I prepare the Federal Government budget from here? I’ll explain.
An official in a unit is asked to list out the needs of the Unit and to find out the basic costs of some items and services.
If I was the official, I would call friends who I know deal in the products and services to be able to quickly lay my hands on the figures and forward them to a superior who believes I was honest enough to do my job correctly, after all, that was one of the reasons I was employed.
Let us say my friend’s attention gets pricked at the prospect of doing a job for the government which she brilliantly translates to quick money. She wrongly gives me inflated figures knowing I will not cross-check since to her, I am only preparing an ‘estimate’ for the government.
I then package all the goods and services we need, do the 40% mark-up of the prices I have received in other to cover the taxes as required by the Procurement Department and pass it on to my boss who then passes it to the permanent secretary for approval and forward to the Budget Unit for defence by the Unit it emanates from and approval of the Budget sum.
The Budget Unit collates all the ministry’s several budgets and takes it up at the Budget Committee of the Ministry. The entire Budget will be reviewed and changes will be made usually to major projects but the small jobs often go unnoticed and then we head to the National Budget Office and so on and so forth till the Senate gets it and it’s in the papers.
Do you see that it’s a chain reaction? We are all involved. Someone asked last Saturday evening, ‘What do you want to see Nigerian youths do differently in 2013?’ A friend answered ‘I want the youths do practice what they preach, to act how they want others to act’.
Last night, I had enough time to ponder and I kept wondering, ‘How come all the proper Nigerians exist only on the social media?’ It is not rocket science to figure out why. Simple, they do not live the life they preach, they do not behave in the way they want others to behave and they have grown a culture of ‘blame it on the government’ or better still, ‘blame it on Jonathan’.
You inflate a figure when asked but you blame the government when it comes out. You drive recklessly but blame the government as they do same with their sirens and convoys. You litter your environment and blame the government. You treat others with disdain and blame the government. But see, the government does not function in isolation.
Let us not forget as we prepare to oust the present government in 2015, that there is a dire need for a change in attitude. Learn to bear responsibilities for your errors in 2013.