Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate yesterday described as very meagre the N23 billion voted by the federal government in the 2020 budget estimate for the execution of capital projects by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs
It however lauded the introduction of the Integrated Personel and Payroll Information Systems (IPPIS) in all federal government-owned establishments, which had saved the country N243 billion from 2017 to 2019.
The Senate Committee on Niger Delta headed by Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, at a budget defence session with Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, while rejecting the N23 billion voted for the ministry, submitted that the N23.89 billion was not only too meagre but designed to fail as it was not enough to make any meaningful impact.
The Senate Committee also expressed concern over the inability of the executive to release any money from the allocation for the ministry’s capital projects in the 2019 budget.
The committee noted that despite the outstanding N21billion worth of projects that were not implemented in the 2019 budget, the executive voted only N23 billion for capital projects by the ministry in the 2020 budget.
It said it is more disturbing that President Muhammadu Buhari has not inaugurated any project executed by the ministry since 2015.
The committee, therefore, resolved to reject the budgetary allocation for the ministry and equally directed the minister and other officials of the ministry at the session to rework it thoroughly by capturing all observations by lawmakers and present it to the committee for scrutiny next Monday.
On his part, the committee chairman, Nwaoboshi, condemned the failure of the ministry to consult stakeholders in the Niger Delta before drawing up the budget.
He asked “Where is the director in charge of projects? How did you come about the projects? Did you sit in your office and bring projects or did you consult stakeholders in the Niger Delta before you advise the minister on the projects to be put in the budget? Can you tell us the stakeholders you consulted before you prepared this budget and gave the minister?
“Are you aware that there are legislators who are also stakeholders from Niger delta?
“Are you aware they have a stake in the development of the Niger Delta and they are entitled to advise you on what is important to them. Did you confer with any member of the national assembly from that area?,” he queried
Also commenting, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who is also a member of the Committee, said: “This is an uncommon budget. “When a budget is designed to fail, it is uncommon. I will suggest that the budget should be taken back for reworking taking into cognisance all the projects that were pointed out and we give them another day to come and defend the budget.”
Immediate past governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, lamented that the current budget proposal is not different from that of the last three years.
Attempts by Akpabio and the Minister of state, Senator Tayo Alasoadura who were members of the Eighth Senate to persuade lawmakers to retain the budgetary allocation for 2020 proved abortive as the committee ruled that the minister should return next Monday to defend the revised budget.
According to Akpabio, “the 2020 Budget Proposal was prepared using the approved Zero-Based Budgeting Approach and also in line with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“A total budgetary proposal of the sum of N25,910,486,285.00 was allocated to the Ministry, Personnel (N1,143,046,763.00), Overhead (N877,089,123.00) and Capital (N23,890,350,399.00) respectively. This proposal had been defended before the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning where the Ministry bemoaned the meagre and inadequate funds allocated for its 2020 Expenditure.”
Also yesterday, the Senate hailed the IPPIS payment system that has saved a lot money into the government coffers in the last three years.
Chairman of Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola, commended the introduction of the Integrated Personel and Payroll Information Systems (IPPIS) in all federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).