The Federal Government says it has saved about N3 billion from overseas trips and training of federal workers in the 2014 budget, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said.
Speaking at the 2014 budget breakdown in Abuja, Okonjo-Iweala said the president has directed that government officials and aides accompanying him to all international functions should be pruned henceforth, as part of efforts to reduce the cost of governance.
The Minister said the Head of Service has equally been mandated to send circulars to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) against embarking on foreign trainings that could be done in the country.
‘‘The government would continue to reduce the cost of governance through other measures such as reduction in the size of delegates accompanying key government officials on foreign trips. The number of overseas trips by government officials will be curtailed, while the size of delegations accompanying key government officials on foreign trips will also be reduced,’’ she said.
To effect the policy, she said the Head of Service and the Director-General of the Budget Office will develop new guidelines for foreign travels by government officials, which will be circulated to all MDAs.
On the huge recurrent expenditure in the 2014 budget, Okonjo-Iweala, blamed it on the increase in the salaries of workers. She said the salary increase, which was granted to various labour groups in 2009 had doubled the Federal Government’s wage bill from N857 billion in that year to N1.72 trillion in 2013.
An analysis of the budget showed the share of recurrent expenditure as a percentage of the total budget was 74.43 per cent in 2011 but dropped to 71.47 per cent and 67.49 per cent in 2012 and 2013, respectively. However, in the 2014 budget, the share of recurrent expenditure rose to 74 per cent.
Okonjo-Iweala said following the continued demand for increase in salary by various labour unions, the huge wage bill would not be easy to adjust downwards.
According to her, any attempt to do this will amount to the sacking of workers, noting that government was not in any way interested in retrenching workers.
The minister said the huge allocation for recurrent expenditure this year was a source of worry to the government as this had reduced the size of funds available for investments in capital projects.