Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara yesterday said national budgets may continue to perform poorly until they pass an integrity test where national values and priority of Nigerians are reflected in their preparations.
He stated that early preparation of budgets would negate the present practice where only values and priorities of budget drafters are reflected.
He condemned the hypocrisy behind producing budgets doomed to fail right from their preparations, in both planning and execution, insisting that the National Assembly organises public hearings on budgets to make the process more inclusive and transparent.
Dogara also stressed that such public hearings were to allow all stakeholders participate in the making of the fiscal bill.
He made the remarks at the opening of the 2019 national budget hearing organised by the Senate and House of Representatives committees on Appropriations at the National Assembly, adding that the lower chamber plans to pass the budget upon resumption of plenary.
His words: “Over the years, the main problem with our budgets, as submitted by the executive, is that they do not reflect national values and priorities. The budgets, more often than not, only reflect values and priorities of those who help the president to draft them.
“The integrity of the project selection process has always been the bane of our national budgets. Until we eliminate these problems, we will always have non-implementable budgets, which cannot be relied upon by policymakers in establishing spending priorities.
“It is very painful that for some years now, our budget process has been an exercise in either a combination of audacious optimism or hypocrisy involving key actors putting together a budget that they know will at best be implemented up to 45 per cent, which is, by all standards, below average.”
He lamented that the country’s below average budget performance is the main reason why Nigeria has remained a promise, as its national potentials could not be released without effective budget planning and execution.
Dogara also disclosed how the presidency has consistently frustrated attempts to make budgets more effective, by declining assent to a constitutional amendment Bill, which sought to compel the executive to submit budget proposals to the National Assembly not later than 90 days to the end of every fiscal year.
The bill, he explained, was also intended to limit expenditure that could be incurred in the absence of Appropriations Act from six months to three months and the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) establishment Bill, which was closely modeled after the American Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“Consequently, efforts to enact a Budget Process Bill, which will spell out timelines for every budgetary activity, is stalled because it would be ineffective to enact a law that will run contrary to Section 81(1) of the Constitution, which allows the President to submit Budget estimates ‘at anytime’ before financial year end,” he added.