Senate, House Query NCC over N29bn Budget Increase

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

Members of the joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Telecommunications yesterday queried the increase in the financial provision for payment of consultancy service of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) from N29.195 billion proposed for payment of salaries and wages in the 2021 fiscal year, against the sum of N16.850 billion approved in the 2020 fiscal year.

The lawmakers, during the 2020 budget performance and 2021 budget defence which was presented by NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Umar Dambatta, also demanded explanation over the increase in the consultancy services of N1 billion proposed for 2021 against the sum of N394.331 million approved in the 2020 Appropriation Act.

Dambatta, at the defence session, asked the Director of Finance and Administration to provide details of the budget performance for the year under review.

The budget performance as at November 30, 2020 showed the total budget of N140.383 billion but the actual came to N79.660 billion.

‘’For the Expenditures (recurrent) total recurrent expenditure that was budgeted was N39.297 billion and what was spent was N28.5 billion. Under the capital project, the total capital Expenditure was budget at N8.129 billion and the actual as at 30th November was N1.427 billion.

‘’For the special project, the total budget was N20.863 billion and what has been spent so far is N13.65 billion.

‘’For total capital project, the budget was N28.9 billion and what was spent was N1.4 billion; Transfer to USPF, N7.5 billion was projected and N5.583 billion was spent. For Transfer to Federal Government of Nigeria, N64.208 billion was budgeted and N35.7 billion was remitted.’’

On the revenue side, the commission realised total sum of N167 million realized out of N1.5 billion budgeted for licensing fees; realized N51.5 billion out of N68.5 billion for annual operating levy; realized N22.778 billion out N47.653 billion budgeted; realized N4.76 million out N115.196 million, respectively.

He added that the documents before the joint committees further provide insight into variances and total revenue.

For 2021, according to the documents presented to the joint Committee, proposed total revenue expected stands at N112.810 billion and additional sum of N49.527 billion from funds for broadband infrastructure and transfer from reserve (totalling N162.067 billion for 2021), against the sum of N123.132 billion and additional sum of N17.252 billion from funds for broadband infrastructure (totaling N140.384 billion) for year 2020.

The commission’s projected Transfer to the federal government for the year 2021 estimated at the sum of N42.002 billion against N64.208 for year 2020 out of which N29.697 billion has so far been remitted in addition to N5.5 billion paid recently.

A member of the committee who queried the report on the wide variance between the proposed N29.195 billion salaries and wages for 2021 and N16.850 approved for 2020 in relations to the 300 staff recruited by the commission, alleged that the commission employed people through the backdoor.

He said that the nominal roll from 2019 to date, will provide insight into whether or not the commission comply with extant regulations on employment, adding that the exercise was done without the knowledge of the Nigerian public.

On his part, Hon. Siaka Adekunle Ayokunle, said, “a lot of things are shredded in secrecy here”, expressed concern over the differential between the projected revenue and expenditure, inquired: “Are we really breaking even here?”

Also, Senator Emmanuel Orker-Jev who expressed concern over the recruitment of the 300 staff, stressed the need for the commission to provide the nominal roll with the view to ascertain the actual number of employees and adherence to federal character policy.

In his response, the NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Umar Dambatta assured that the nominal roll will be made available to the committee as requested.

Ruling, Chairman, House Committee on Telecommunications, Hon. Akeem Adeyemi directed the NCC management team to provide the nominal roll for further legislative action.

He assured that the Committee will call for interactive session sometime next year with the view to address some of the concerns raised by the lawmakers.