•President seeks lawmakers’ approval to borrow $7.9bn
From Kunle Akogun and Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja
The Senate Committee on Appropriation has announced that some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government secretly smuggled over N1 trillion on projects into the N4.7 trillion budget for 2012, and may have shot up the budget to N5.7 trillion.
This disclosure coincided with the approval sought by President Goodluck Jonathan from the National Assembly to borrow $7,905,690,000 to enable the Federal Govern-ment execute pipeline projects under the Medium Term Fiscal Framework (2012 – 2014).
It also emerged yesterday that the National Assembly may complete legislative works on the 2012 Appropriation Bill next week.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Ahmed Maccido, who opened the can of worms on the padding up of their respective budgets by the MDAs, alleged that over 40 per cent of the projects were not captured in the budget presented to the National Assembly by the president on December 13 last year, adding that the National Assembly would discard the projects.
He said: “These projects were smuggled into the budget by the MDAs and we at the committee level would jettison them because they are not in the original budget.”
Maccido insisted in a statement that the committee would subject the budget to thorough scrutiny to expunge all the unauthorised projects.
The Appropriation Committee chairman said: “The problem is that we are seeing projects that are not in the original version of the budget presented to us by President Goodluck Jonathan and substantial parts of these projects are being smuggled into the budget by the MDAs and ministers.
“Over 40 per cent of the projects in the budget were not in the original budget. And we are saying no to this.
“The items so smuggled into the budget are over N1 trillion. So we are right now comparing the budget as originally presented by the president and the version presented by the MDAs.
“Unless these projects were there in the original budget, we are going to scrap them. It is no longer going to be business as usual.”
However, Senate President David Mark has given all the Senate standing committees up to tomorrow to complete their submissions on the budget to the Committee on Appropriation to enable it finalise all necessary legislative action on their submissions.
Setting the deadline, Mark said in the event any committee fails to make its submission, the Senate would be forced to take the budget estimates for the MDAs under the oversight supervision of such committees as presented by the Presidency.
Expatiating on the Senate president’s directive later at a press briefing, Senate spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said: “By next week, the budget consideration process would have been completed and we would set up a harmonisation committee of the two chambers to iron out any grey areas that might occur in the versions passed by each of the chambers.”
Abaribe added: “By the end of February or early March, the budget will be passed.”
Meanwhile, President Jonathan yesterday sent a list of pipeline projects under the Medium Term Fiscal framework (2012 – 2014) to the National Assembly for inclusion in the 2012 – 2014 External Borrowing Plan.
For the purpose of executing the pipeline projects, the president sought the approval of the lawmakers to borrow $7,905,690,000 in the three years or $2.64 billion a year.
In two separate letters he sent to Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, and read on the floors of both chambers yesterday, Jonathan said the proposed loan is a cumulative facility offered by the World Bank, African Development Bank (ADB), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Exim Bank of China and Indian lines of credit.
He said the loan would be used to fund “a number of special initiatives designed to put the economy back on track through growth and employment activities geared towards the implementation of the government’s transformation agenda”.