By Deji Elumoye
Abuja — Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, has said the executive arm of government is being acting clever by half-blaming the legislature for the delay in the passage of its annual budget.
President Muhammadu Buhari had penultimate Friday in Abuja put the blame for the delay in passage of its annual budget at the doorstep of the National Assembly saying such delay was affecting the completion of capital projects across the country.
Olujimi in a reaction in Abuja yesterday however differed with the president’s position, saying blaming the National Assembly for the annual delay in the passage of the Appropriation Act was not only unfortunate but only shows that the executive arm is not saying the truth.
She, therefore, advised the presidency to desist from playing politics with sensitive issues like the budgeting process.
According to her, the executive arm needs to interrogate the efficiency of those involved in budget preparation so that it can realise that one of the causes of delays in budget passage is how the budget estimates submitted to the legislature come without the necessary details and accompanying documents.
“What were usually laid before the parliament were mere window dressing documents for the purpose of the presentation ceremony and the photo opportunities,” she said.
Olujimi also recalled instances in the past like in the case of the 2016 budget when after the budget proposal was submitted with fanfare, the executive attempted to surreptitiously change what was submitted, thereby leading to allegation of ‘missing budget’ in the media.
“Later, there were two formal applications for substitution of the budget proposals.
“All these developments will necessarily lead to delay in the passage of the budget. The National Assembly, in the spirit of co-operation, decided to keep quiet and demonstrated understanding with the executive. Yet, in order to undermine the legislature and incite the people against the institution, the executive will often go to the public to talk ill of the legislature and blame us for its own failure,” the Senate leader said.
Olujimi also emphasised that “the president himself in June this year expressed surprise during a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly when he was confronted with the fact that ministers and heads of other agencies have refused to defend the budget proposals of their ministries department and agencies (MDAs) before legislative committees.
“On that occasion, the president stated that the information was contrary to what he was fed by his aides before coming for the meeting. He then ordered the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to compel all heads of MDAs to immediately appear before the respective committees so that the budget can be passed.
The Senate Minority Leader went further to say that some ministers had in the past appeared before the National Assembly committees and denied certain provisions in the budget of their ministries.
According to her, “In one instance, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, denied the provision made for the purchase of computers in his ministry as stated in the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly.
“This kind of disconnect between budget proposals and the position of the heads of MDAs made the National Assembly to insist on budget defence by heads of MDAs. This has helped to curb the menace of what is known as budget padding.”
She further explained that “when the President of the Senate told Senate correspondents at their annual retreat in Jos that there was need for more engagement, dialogue and discussion between the executive and the legislature for the smooth running of governance, key members of the executive are publicly condemned the call.
“We are surprised that the presidency has now realised the need for constant meetings with legislators when the wave of defection begins to blow around. It should be noted that just as the presidency needs to engage legislators for partisan issues, the same approach is more needed on the issues of governance, smooth operation of the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances. When the executive runs down the legislature, it does nobody any good.”