President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration will continue to welcome well-meaning criticism of its policies, its budget and expenditure, the Presidency said yesterday.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the government decided to take the stance because it was the only way the change promised the country would have a meaning.
To this end and in line with established tradition, he said the President has directed that the draft 2016 appropriation budget, which is before the National Assembly, should be put on the website of the budget office so that Nigerians can read it with a view to making their observations.
With the directive, he said suggestions that the Presidency was misleading the public on any aspects of the budget could no longer stand the test of time.
The statement, which was a reaction to a newspaper story that said: “2016 Budget: Buhari to spend more on State House Clinic than on all federal govt-owned teaching hospitals,” noted that the Budget Office supplied a summary of the allocations to the various sectors under the Ministry of Health, which showed clearly that the published story was inaccurate.
The statement reads in part: “The budget office has affirmed that in terms of both capital and recurrent allocations, the draft budget has put far more money in the 17 teaching hospitals than it did in the State House Clinic.
“Having said this, we are not by any stretch of imagination suggesting that the draft budget is beyond comments or reproach. Nor do we wish to dwell on this simply to make a point. To do that will drive away good citizens from pointing out needed corrections and, ultimately defeating the change mantra of the administration.
“The budget is a Nigerian budget and citizens reserve the right to examine its content and provide their own perspectives.
“As the draft goes through the approval process, this and many other aspects will continue to generate interest, criticism, commendation and sometimes condemnation in discussions in the parliament, the media and the court of public opinion.
“We believe that the process of “change” will be affected by, and stands to gain from these debates, especially where there is good faith on all sides.
“Government has no reason whatsoever to mislead the citizens on the budget and on all other matters for whatever reason.”