Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill by the National Assembly has suffered a setback, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was reliably gathered on Tuesday that the March 8 date set for the standing committees of both chambers of the National Assembly to submit their reports on the 2017 budget was no longer feasible.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives had suspended plenary for three weeks to conduct budget defence sessions for the government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
It was learnt that though the National Assembly resumed plenary on Tuesday, most of the standing committees had not been able to reconcile their figures with the MDAs under their oversight.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, after a short plenary, met with other leaders of the chamber and chairmen of the committees.
At the meeting, it was gathered that majority of the chairmen complained that the estimates presented by the executive lacked details.
A dependable source, who was at the meeting, said apart from missing details, several chief executives of the MDAs failed to appear before the committees for budget defence.
The source said, “Most of the committees tabled various complaints. About 60 per cent of them complained that most MDAs did not provide details of their estimates. For instance, on the Social Intervention Fund of the Federal Government, a lump sum was mentioned for the welfare programme without critical details.
“If the government plans to stay N5,000 stipend to each poor Nigerian, we should know their total number and how many they are by geopolitical zones, states and local governments.
“There is also the issue of lack of adequate information on disbursement of funds. It will interest you to know that the Ministry of Finance was asked to go and bring certain missing details on Monday.”
The source further said that lawmakers also lamented that the Budget Office of the Federation and Debt Management Office were issuing conflicting figures, adding that the two offices seemed to be in conflict.
The source added, “Apart from these, there are issues such as non-appearance of the heads of the MDAs before the committees. Also, the executive seems not to have learnt from its mistakes in 2016. Again this year, there are still questionable provisions in the budget such as computers and generators, which had been catered for by the 2016 budget. Some Civil Society Organisations have also fished out some of such items.
“The lawmakers also mentioned massive shortfall in spending arising from the implementation of the 2016 budget. A lot of the MDAs could not give proper account of their budgetary spending last year.”
The source disclosed that Saraki gave the committees two more weeks to meet with the MDAs on the irregularities. This, he said, would be taken by the Senate as a “clean-up” exercise in the budget.
According to him, all the interface should be concluded by the end of February.
“But the success of the clean-up depends on the degree of cooperation from the MDAs,” the source noted.
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