House Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal
Onwuka Nzeshi and Dele Ogbodo
Despite promise from the executive that the 2013 Appropriation Bill will be presented to the National Assembly early next month, the House of Representatives Thursday expressed doubts over its ability to meet the target.
Any delay in presenting the budget early, it warned, would slowed down the early passage of the 2013 budget and stall efforts to alter the budget cycle from mid-April to March 31, to January 1 to December 31
However, there were indications that efforts aimed at presenting the budget early to the National Assembly were on track as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy (CME) and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, met behind closed doors with the senate leadership to brief them on the major planks of the 2013 budget.
During a debate on the implementation of the 2012 budget, whose execution was put at some 50 per cent, the lawmakers argued that the likelihood of presenting next year’s budget as scheduled was remote.
They noted that the submission of the Medium-Time Expenditure Framework (MTEF) in mid-September and the time it would take the National Assembly to debate and pass it back to the executive, would make the target of passing the Appropriation Bill by December a tall order.
Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon John Enoh, said not much had changed in budget’s execution since the House threatened to penalise the executive in July if it had not attained full implementation of the budget by the time the lawmakers resumed from recess in September.
According to him, as at September 14, the total funds releases by the Federal Ministry of Finance to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) stood at N701 billion out of the N1.3trillion provided in the budget for capital expenditure this fiscal year.
Enoh alleged that the Ministry of Finance had not made enough releases to MDAs, a situation, he said, might delay the implementation of the budget and cause a possible spill over to next year.
He advocated a new regime where all statutory releases are mandatorily done in the first month of each quarter instead of the present situation where the release of funds is done at the discretion of the executive.
Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, presented a rosy economic scenario in terms of revenue generation.
He said the non-release of funds for capital projects was not because of lack of funds but for some inexplicable reasons.
The debate on the implementation of the 2012 budget was, however, aborted when some lawmakers argued that it was premature going by the plan by the House to embark on the physical inspection of projects being executed by the MDAs.
The planned physical oversight earlier scheduled to start next week was shelved by one week.
House Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, explained that given the preliminary reports submitted by some committees and reports on the recent release of funds to some MDAs, the lawmakers might not have much to inspect if they embarked on the planned physical oversight next week.
Okonjo-Iweala, however, met with the Senate leadership to brief it on the 2013 budget estimates.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Ahmed Muhammad Maccido, as well as the Chairmen, Committees on Finance and Information, THISDAY learnt, expressed some anxiety over the delay from the executive in presenting the 2013 budget estimates.
Senate President David Mark had on Wednesday requested that the 2013 budget estimates be forwarded to the legislature early so as to allow for exhaustive debate and quick passage.
Providing clarification immediately after the meeting with Oknojo-Iweala, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the budget was the central focus of the meeting.
“We wanted insights into the budget that is coming and the minister briefed us on budget’s performance and gave us figures on what have been released so far.
“We also collected documentation on the budget’s performance and we are going to reconvene the meeting a few weeks from now. Our committees will now go out for oversight of their respective agencies with the figures the minister gave to us to determine the extent of utilisation.
“We are not just interested in what was released but we are interested in actual utilisation of funds.”
Giving further insight, a ministry source explained that the both sides agreed that implementation rate keeps improving, while President Jonathan is personally leading the drive for higher implementation.
It was also agreed that progress has been made on budget 2012 implementation but that there was need to work harder at improving the level of implementation before year end.
In particular the two chambers stressed that fourth quarter releases should be made early and the Executive team expressed its commitment to achieving this.