National Assembly Complex
The debate on the general principles of the 2013 Appropriation Bill commenced on the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday as the lower chamber insisted on its recommendation of $80 per barrel as the benchmark of the budget.
Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Zakary Mohammed, explained that the reason for insisting on the $80 per barrel benchmark was to ensure an increase in government revenue, reduction in deficit and guard against wastage associated with the management of the Excess Crude Account.
The adamant posture of the House was however opposed by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission which described the $75 per barrel benchmark proposed by the executive as realistic.
The commission argued that the resultant excess revenue will continue to boost the Excess Crude Account and provide sustainable funding for savings, investment and infrastructural development through the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
The debate on the budget saw lawmakers bemoaning the poor implementation of the 2012 budget and urging the executive to guard against a repeat of the current situation.
Although attendance at the budget debate session was scanty, the few contributions dwelt on the failure of the national budgets in successive years and the need for the executive to brace up for the challenges of implementing the budget and creating a positive impact on the populace.
House Leader, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, laid the foundation for the debate as she gave a synopsis of the budget proposal and highlighted the allocations to key sectors of the economy.
The Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Mohammed Ashiru, said the 2012 budget had been plagued by low level of fund releases, selective implementation as well as poor level of utilisation by the Ministries Departments and Agencies.
According to Hashiru, out of the N180 billion allocated to the housing sector, only about N36.5 billion was utilised.
He also complained about the lopsided allocations in favour of recurrent expenditure in the 2012 budget and urged the House to guard against these observed lapses in the 2013 budget.
However, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission has blamed the alleged poor performance of the 2012 budget on the late presentation and passage of the budget.
Chairman of the commission, Alhaji Aliyu Yelwa, gave this explanation when he met with the House Committee on Finance.
Yelwa, represented by the Commissioner, Policy and Standards in the commission, Dr. Sylvanus Mordi, also blamed the problem of the budget on activities of the Federal Ministry of Finance.
He said the ministry delayed in transmitting copies of the Appropriation Bill and quarterly reports to the commission.
“Ministry of Finance doesn’t keep to time. Tell them to bring something in August, they do in November. We have not seen the first, second and third quarterly reports on 2012 and without these report there is nothing to work with ,” Mordi said.
The commissioner also lamented that the Ministry of Finance rebuffed attempts to source copies of the 2012 Appropriation Act, and had to resort to photocopies from the National Assembly.
He also blamed the ministry for blocking information on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), an act he said violated the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
He disclosed that the commission recovered over N64 billion “operating surplus” from certain corporations.
He urged the lawmakers to strengthen the operations of the commission to enable it participate more actively in the budget process.
Meanwhile, the House has passed through second reading, the budget of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for the year 2012.
The N250.857 billion budget estimate has been referred to the relevant committee.