Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang
By Dele Ogbodo
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, at the weekend, said the National Assembly had no powers to summon the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to defend the 2012 budget implementation and the funds that were released to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
Enang, who represents Akwa Ibom North East senatorial district in the Senate, stated that such action by the lawmaking organ was a breach of the 2012 Appropriation Act, adding that the law stipulates that the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Jonah Otunla, should be the person to explain such releases made by ministry.
The senator who made the disclosure in Abuja, at an interactive forum with journalists, said the Senate is also to be briefed by the appropriate bodies keeping the records on how much money government had in the excess crude account.
He said: “Now, nobody has sent in any report of how much money we have in the excess crude account and no money should be spent from the excess crude account unless it is appropriated by the national Assembly.
“No appropriation has been sought from the use of any money from the excess crude account therefore there has been so much breach of the provisions of the budget and for me it will be necessary to tidy up all these.”
He said: “When the President is presenting a budget and when we are considering how much has been implemented and how much has been released we should not rely on the Minister of Finance because the minister is not given any duty by the law to brief us on her releases. It is not her job to brief the legislature or anybody on the release because it is the duty of the AGF under the law to say I have released so much to so ministry and this is the record of the release.”
According to him, the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2011 provides that the President sends in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the Fiscal Strategy paper to the National Assembly, stressing that the National Assembly would consider it and approve the parameters for the budget using the exchange rate of the naira to the dollar, the quantum of production and benchmark of crude oil, and other parameters. He further noted that it was when this had been done that it is communicated to the executive, which would now be used to prepare the budget and present to the National Assembly.
Enang said: “As at today President Goodluck Jonathan has forwarded to us the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and both chambers have received it and are still working, therefore, we are to conclude this and forward the parameters to the president which would be used in concluding the budget.”
On the resolutions by the House of Representative not to meet with President Jonathan on the 2013 budget lying before both chambers, he said: “I am a graduate of the House of Representatives and they are my brothers and I will not speak against or about the decision they have taken because the decision they took on the floor and by resolutions is a decision of that House. Therefore, it is strictly a matter for the House of Representatives.
“The only way I come in as a Senator is that the President cannot come to present budget to the Senate differently or to the House of Representatives differently and of course the letter of the President was a request to the Senate and House Representatives to grant him that date and if the House is saying that date is not convenient, then another date would be granted and so members of the public should not see it as anything that is abnormal and of course in taking the decision they gave reasons, they are not saying they won’t receive him, it is just a question of the date.”