Senators berate ministers, heads of agencies over poor budget defence


By Patience Danjuma 

Nigerian Senators on Tuesday took turns to condemn the attitude of some ministers and heads of Departments and Agencies, MDAs, over poor preparation and defence of their 2018 budgets.

The lawmakers specifically frowned at the absence of some of the officials invited, non-preparedness of some and shoddy presentations by others.

They also condemned the attitude of some officials who showed up at budget defence without the required documents.

The senators said that their interaction with the executive arm over the past two weeks has shown a poor implementation of the 2017 budget; hence the decision that the 2018 appropriation would not be passed before the end of the year as requested.

The Senate on December 5 suspended its plenary for two weeks to enable MDAs defend their budget before committees considering the 2018 appropriation bill.

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while announcing the recess had warned heads of MDAs to avoid unnecessary travels in order to honour invitations by Senate committees.

However, the lawmakers said the experiences of the committees were disheartening.

Coming under Order 42 and 45 of the Senate standing order, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, opened the debate on the budget consideration.

“When we suspended plenary for two weeks, it was with the understanding that the various committees of the Senate will work and the product of that work will have given us an insight into meeting our pledge to pass the national budget before the end of the year,” he said.

“But from what I have seen, I know that we might run into some troubled waters. And if you remember, Mr. President has made it very clear that 60 per cent of what was proposed in the 2017 budget will be carried over to the 2018 budget, the report we have seen so far is showing that nothing like that has happened.”

Mao Ohabunwa, Abia-PDP, said the heads of agencies failed to show a correlation between the 2017 and 2018 budgets including the percentage roll over.

“First and foremost, we have the public procurement act that says that the MTEF must be presented three or four months before the budget because that would lay the assumptions that the budget will be predicated upon. But unfortunately, we jettisoned that.

“Two weeks ago, we decided to suspend plenary to look at the budget. And if you ask every chairman of every committee, I invited two, the budget performance today as we speak is below 20 per cent. Even from the presentations of these agencies, you can see that they are not prepared. There is no correlation between 2017 and 2018 budgets. We try to panel beat and see if we can manage, but there was nothing we could do. And there was no roll over from their presentations. So, I think we are playing sir.”

Matthew Uroghide, Edo-PDP, in his submission said the budget consideration should not be rushed but well scrutinised.

“The budget of 2018 is already bedevilled. If you look through the performance of 2017 as presented by some of the MDAs, there is really nothing to present. For personnel expenditure many of them are still complaining that what was appropriated to them is not enough. Overhead of 2017 is worse as capital expenditure, so that many of the MDAs were not working on daily basis.

“Every consideration of 2018 budget should be put at bay because this executive is not serious. If this executive is serious about 2018 budget, let them give us information about capital expenditure.”

Similarly, Samuel Olamilekan, Ogun-APC, said the 2017 budget had underperformed, ”against President Buhari’s promise.”

“It is unfortunate that the set target to pass this budget before the end of the year is not feasible. How can we consider 2018 budget without knowing the performance of 2017 budget? It’s an aberration and if you look at the documents presented by these MDAs, the facts are there, there are no clear cut performance for 2017 budget to compare with the 2018 that they are proposing.

“What we have before us does not show us that this executive is ready for this budget to be passed. The 2017 budget has not performed anything. There is need for us to be in hurry.

“Last week, it was in the paper that one of the ministers was asked to be excused because he is not prepared. Even the documents for them to consider the budget, he doesn’t have the documents. So, on what basis will the committee work.

“Look at the crisis that surrounded the MTEF. There’s unseriousness on the part of the economic team of the president, if we cannot have the MTEF three to four months before the budget.”

He asked the Senate to re-invite the Ministers of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udoma to explain the performance of the 2017 budget.

The Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye, accused the executive of not remitting over N1.1 billion generated from stamp duty and NNPC’s internally generated revenue.

“There is no relationship between 2017 and 2018 budget. There is an outstanding of over N1.1 billion stamp duty that has not been remitted into federation account yet he (Buhari) took Eurobond of $5.5 billion. We won’t need that if these funds were remitted.

“NNPC is supposed to pay over N300 billion into the federation account, no kobo was paid by NNPC in 2016, none was paid in 2017 and we say we are fighting corruption.”

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, noted that the experiences of the committees are disheartening given the level of energy the senators expended to ensure smooth passage of the budget.

“Truly it is very disappointing and disheartening to hear the various experiences of the committees. This is because we know how much pressure that we have put on the various MDAs to ensure that the budget is passed before the end of the year.

“How can anybody that should be defending their budget pick this period of time to be traveling? They’ve had all time to travel. Now is the time to attend to the budget defence process.

“More importantly, is the assumption that the capital budget of 2017 will be 40 to 50 per cent implemented by now, but this has not been the case. This makes it very difficult for us. We cannot turn into magicians.

“All I am going to do is to appeal to all the senators to work with what they have, so that we have a budget that is in the best interest of all Nigerians,” Saraki said.    

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