N’Assembly Increases Its Budget to N150bn, Lays 2017 Appropriation Bill Thursday

• To open its budget to public scrutiny

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

Owing to rising inflation and the depreciation of the naira, the National Assembly, which for years has faced criticism over the lack of transparency and accountability over its budget, has increased its 2017 budget in this year’s Appropriation Bill to N150 billion from the initial proposal of N120 billion.

This is just as the Appropriation Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives would Thursday lay the 2017 budget ahead of its consideration next week.

THISDAY gathered that the 2017 Appropriation Bill to be laid Thursday would include details of the appropriated expenditure (expenditure line items and sub-heads) of the National Assembly, in line with the promise made by its leadership to make public the details of its budget.

THISDAY, however, could not confirm if the federal government’s budget was increased, reduced or retained at N7.3 trillion as proposed by the executive.

A source in the Senate explained that the legislature had to increase its budget to N150 billion, as it could no longer deploy the pooled resources for services provided in the National Assembly.

“We are opening our budget to scrutiny and since we are doing that, there are more exigencies such as services being provided in the National Assembly, they are getting more money.

“More importantly, now that we are opening the budget, it means we have to account for all the activities: the monies used to clean the House and Senate, for instance. We use cleaning agencies for this, as we do not have civil servants who clean the premises. It is done on a contractual agreement. We also have people fuelling the generators and all that.

“As against what happened in the past, when we just went into a pool of funds and took the money, now there is need to account for every naira that is spent.

“So they had to get the kind of costing applicable for those things, and in the process of getting the official costing for these things, some of these services have increased due to the foreign exchange rate. These include the cost of diesel; purchase of utility vehicle; etc, which have all increased.

“As such, it is even good that we are now accounting for it,” the source explained.
Another source added that it was necessary for Nigerians not to continue to hold on to the impression that the budget of the legislature is for the 109 senators and 360 House members alone.

“The budget is for the National Assembly and its three agencies: National Assembly Service Commission, National Institute for Legislative Studies and the Public Complaints Commission.

“The National Assembly alone has at least 3,500 staff and over 5,000 legislative aides. They are all paid from within this budget,” he said.

The source further revealed that consideration of the federal budget would likely start next Tuesday and may last for at least two weeks.

“Consideration may start next week, and this will be in line with the agreement we had and the speech of the Speaker when we resumed from the break, when he said the National Assembly would pass the details of the 2017 budget, not the summary.

“What this means is that it would take more than three legislative days, at least a minimum of two weeks.
“The fact that the 2016 budget would elapse on Friday does not mean government cannot continue spending. The constitution allows the government to go to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and start spending the equivalent of half of the 2017 budget.

“So there will be no shutdown, they would continue to pay the salaries of workers,” he explained further.

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