Senators Say 2017 Appropriation Bill Messier Than 2016 Budget

Saraki...not distracted by attacks

 Adeosun: FG to borrow $2.3bn from World Bank, China

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Obinna Chima in Lagos with agency report

The March 8 deadline set by the Senate for the passage of 2017 budget is no longer feasible, as the chairmen of the sub-committee on the Appropriation Committee tuesday complained that the three weeks set aside for budget defence had exposed fundamental flaws in the document.

At a closed-door session held between the principal officers of the Senate and all the committee chairmen tuesday, the senators said contrary to the belief that this year’s budget was better packaged than that of last year, the budget was actually a “mess”.

THISDAY was told after the meeting that the sub-committee chairmen complained that the details of the budget had shown that several ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) did not learn any lessons from the discrepancies that characterised the 2016 budget.

The chairmen were reported to have informed the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, that they could no longer meet the deadline set for the conclusion of the budget process because the document was characterised by inconsistencies, shortfalls in the spending for 2016 appropriations, and failure or inability of the MDAs to explain how the funds were disbursed.

THISDAY further learnt that the tale of woes by the committee chairmen compelled the Senate President to head for the Presidential Villa after the meeting yesterday to relay the Senate’s concern over the budget.

THISDAY further learnt that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, was put on the spot on Monday when she appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance where she was confronted with the flaws in the budget.

The minister, it was learnt, was challenged over her failure to provide details of the budget proposal including the breakdown of the figures in the budget.

At the end of her meeting with the committee, she was told to come back with the budget details and breakdown of some proposed expenditure.

Among the details that the executive was accused of failing to provide, included proposals on the N500 billion proposed for the social intervention fund and N100 billion proposed for housing, among others.

However, it was also learnt that the minister did not show an understanding of the issues raised by the senators and felt that the Senate by its handling of the budget was attempting to usurp her power as the finance minister.

It was also learnt that the committee chairmen also decried the failure of a number of heads of MDAs to appear before the Senate committees and consequently complicated the budget process.

The MDA heads were alleged to have stayed away and opted to send representatives for fear of being put on the spot over allegations of budget padding.

The senators named the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, among the heads of MDAs who stayed away during the budget defence.

The highlights of the stalemate identified by senators during the budget defence included a sharp disagreement over N700 million in the budget by the Budget Office and Debt Management Office (DMO).

In the end, it was learnt that the meeting resolved that the sub-committees should carry out a lot of engagements with the MDAs with a view to helping them to clean up the discrepancies in the budget.

The senators’ submissions at the meeting appeared to have confirmed the report of civil society organisations submitted to the National Assembly last week that the budget was full of fraudulent and frivolous proposals.

A coalition of CSOs under the aegis of Citizen Wealth Platform (CWP) had at the opening of a three-day public hearing organised last week by the National Assembly on the 2017 budget, said it had uncovered a range of frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful expenditure proposals in the budget.

According to the group, a range of wasteful, duplicated and needless proposals, amounting to N151.536 billion had been identified in the budget which it wanted the National Assembly to expunge.

The group further reported that a number of proposals for which funds had been appropriated in 2016 budget were again smuggled into the 2017 budget.

On this basis, the committee chairmen were said to have reported yesterday that a number of questionable proposals found in the budget included fake items such as computers and other items that were duplicated.

Nonetheless, the meeting was said to have resolved that the sub-committees should speed up the budget process and ensure its completion by the end of February so that the Appropriation Committee can receive their reports at the end of the month.

Also, the Senate did not hold plenary session yesterday but only met, read the correspondence that had sent to them during its recess, and adjourned till today in honour of a member of the House of Representatives from Marshi constituency in Katsina State, Hon. Sani Bello, who passed on February 15.

FG to Borrow $2.3bn from World Bank, China

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance has disclosed that the federal government wants to borrow at least $1 billion from the World Bank and will sign within months a $1.3 billion loan from China to fund railway projects.

Africa’s biggest economy needs to plug a gap in its record N7.3 trillion 2017 budget, which boosts capital expenditure by a quarter to end its first recession in 25 years due to low oil prices.

The government has been in talks with the World Bank for a year and wants to finalise this month a reform proposal necessary for a loan application, according to officials.

“We expected to borrow at least $1 billion,” Reuters quoted Adeosun to have said when she was asked about the talks with the World Bank on a CNBC programme.

“There is also some possibility of doing sector specific intervention in the power sector, they are working very closely with us on power,” she added, without being more specific.

Nigeria had initially promised to submit an economic plan to the World Bank by the end of December but did not do so, sources told Reuters last month.

Adeosun also said Nigeria had been offered a $1.3 billion loan by China’s state Export-Import Bank (Exim) to fund railway projects.

Nigeria will also present a reform proposal to the African Development Bank (AfDB) to release a second loan tranche of $400 million, officials have said.

AfDB had paid out a first tranche of $600 million but has held back the rest pending reforms. Its president has criticised hard currency curbs hitting investment.

On Monday, the central bank made a step towards reforms by devaluing the naira for retail customers. President Muhammadu Buhari had objected to devaluation, but he is away on sick leave.

Adeosun also said the government wanted to harmonise policies with the central bank and that non-oil revenues were improving, without giving details.

She also said there was no need for a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“The IMF is really a lender of last resort when you have balance of payments problem. Nigeria doesn’t have balance of payments problems per se, it has a fiscal problem.”

Adeosun also said one or two banks were yet to remit state revenues via a Treasury Single Account (TSA) at the central bank created in 2015 to combat corruption.

“Interestingly our whistleblowing programme (to track down graft) actually picks up tips that bankers were being instructed to rename accounts when they knew that the money belongs to the federal government.” She did not name the banks.

  • Dunu Anselm

    This government and the party that brought it to power should really be ashamed of themselves. How long will we suffer this incompetence. A simple arithmetic of numbers is now a rocket science and the architects of this absurdity, the finance minister and the budget office director are still earning their salaries at our expense. To add insult to injury some creeps like the one that calls himself Steel comes at this forum to foul up the atmosphere with his foolishness. It is now very certain that APC is beyond redemption and the choice before us is to continue to down the hill or come to our senses and change this government and its puerile characters called APC.

  • Samuel Okezie

    Instead of borrowing over $1b for a railway, is it not better for a refinery? Wouldn’t a refinery serve us better and save us more money than a railway line? The refinery will even save us so much money that the whole economy would feel it. I don’t even want to go into the pseudo Chinese loan where they keep the money and spend on behalf of you with the merits and demerits.

  • Ola

    Will Nigeria ever get it right?

    If we cannot get the budget right at least once, how can we get Governance right?

    This is a big embarrassment to Nigeria as a country – a land of intellectuals governed by the fools.

  • Daniel Obior

    It is certainly no surprise the 2017 proposed budget is considered messier than the heavily padded one of 2016. This incompetent government had a full year after the 2016 budget debacle, to cut out the fat in the system to its bare bones, and then build from there. Instead it did next to nothing and came up with even a higher budget than 2016. Garbage in garbage out.

    • Musa M. Dantsoho

      And previous budgets that were not messier could not be implemented beyond 20% to 30%.

      • Daniel Obior

        Typical lie by APC and followers who make excuses for their failures.

        • Musa M. Dantsoho

          My comment is simply continuation to your. Simply copy and paste, it will give far more better meaning. Right?

          • Powell Tallen

            Musa please go back to school. There is nothing like “more better” in English. It is either “more” or “better” or “much better” or “far better”. From BUK Kano, I guess.

          • Sadiq Garba

            Powell, it is not a grammar school.
            If he can be understood, all is well.

          • Musa M. Dantsoho

            Noted and thanks for the corrections.

          • Daniel Obior

            You would rather copy others because you lack the imagination to even express yourself in your own words. What a pity!

    • share Idea

      And the case is even worse when you consider that this administration claimed to be running ZERO-BUDGETING framework and all these paddings are being observed. What a pathetic situation Nigeria is in

    • Steel

      Mr. Daniel Obi or get a life beyond picking on the mistakes of govt to make excuses for your failed & heavily criminally laced pdp govts of the past that looted our treasury bare.
      Govts all over the world make mistakes every now & again & measures are taken to correct them. Govts are peopled by humans who can make errors.
      In this instance, the senators are crying wolf & magnified by jaundiced media like Thisday becos they are not getting the usual ‘rob my back I rob your back’ handouts this time around from mdas.
      The issue of some items in the 2016 budget appearing in the 2017 budget was clarified last week in one the nass section with the PS in presidency to the effect that a lot of the proposals in the 2016 budget could not be done owing to paucity of funds hence the need to include them in the 2017 budget. What stops nass from sending members to the mdas on oversight for verifications so as to come up with better conclusions. They are lazy money mongers who keeps inviting people to come meet with them like feudal lords.
      Ordinarily, each committee ought to be armed with a report of the activities of every mda they oversight ie the needs & all long b4 the budget come to them to enable them act promptly on the budget. But they ll rather wait hoping that some mdas ll play ball if squeezed.
      Daniel help tell nass to their job as should be for greater good of Nigeria instead of always moaning in the media to try to score undeserved points.
      if indeed they do their job right, you think any mda ll dare come to them with “padded” request when they know exactly what’s going on in every mdas all year round?
      Let’s be adults here!

      • Daniel Obior

        If we have to be adults then you should discuss like an adult. Your rather verbose comment is a muddle which I am sure you do not even understand yourself. Please try read it again and see if makes any sense. At the end of the day, the government bears responsibility for the budget it has proposed. If there are errors, the government is responsible. My point still stands that much better work ought to have been done on this year’s budget, after the fiasco of last year. If you cannot see this simple truth, please continue to live your life in blindness to truth and facts.

        • Daniel

          Steel either does not get it or just being disingenuous.

          • Daniel Obior

            Maybe a curious case of both.

      • Daniel

        Wow! Still hanging on to the past when a government of supposed CHANGE has visited you with two fraudulent national budgets so far?

        Where are you APC/ Buharists coming from?

        What an incompetent and corrupt government of poverty!