Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The upper chamber of the National Assembly on Thursday chastised the management of the Ministry of Communications for abandoning 104 capital projects approved for it in the 2018 fiscal year.
Vice Chairman of the Senate committee on Communications, Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi Central), who spoke at the 2019 budget defence of the ministry, tongue lashed the ministry’s management saying a situation where projects are approved with appropriated funds but abandoned is worrisome.
Submissions made by the Ministry show that out of the 121 capital projects approved and appropriated in 2018 for it, just about 17 projects had reached varying degrees of completion leaving a larger percentage either not funded or not executed at all.
Also, out of the 82 projects listed in the 2019 budget, 52 are new projects which made the senators to asked questions on whether such projects should be reviewed.
According to Misau, “This scenario is worrisome. Does it mean that all budgetary items that were either poorly funded originally are actually not relevant and important to the ministry ab initio?
” What is responsible for the underutilization of the total releases by the ministry? From the document before us the ministry utilized N449 million (20.57%) out of the N2.1 billion released.”
Missau who said they relied on the information forwarded to the Committee by the Ministry observed that the same old story of insufficient funding was prevalent like in previous fiscal years.
“For the main Ministry in 2018, out of a Capital Expenditure budget of N5.4billion, only a sum of N2.2billion was released leaving an outstanding of N3.2billion,” he queried .
On the 2019 budget proposal, Misau said the committee observed that total proposal for the Communication sector which is pegged at N18.1billion for the fiscal year is N1.6billion less than N91.7 billion approved in 2018.
“We further observed that the total Capital Expenditure proposal for the sector in 2019 (N5.5billion) is about 30.6% reduced from N8.0 billion approved from N8.0 billion approved in 2018.
“Again, the Ministry alone is proposing another round of 82 projects in 2019 out of which 52 are completely new projects.
“The Committee would like to know the rationale for proposing another round of new projects when a vast sum of projects was either left unexecuted or half-executed,”
Communications Minister, Adebayo Shittu, in his response, however, said based on the budget circular given to the ministry concerning budget proposals, they were asked not to rollover projects which made them to introduce 52 new ones.
The minister said the ministry could not spend all the funds released to it because of the delay in their releases baring in mind that procurement process takes time.
According to him, the ministry needs more releases before the end of this fiscal year with a promise that all funds made available to them would be utilized.