Senate Exonerates Finance Minister Over Alleged N206bn Budget Padding, Others

•Condemns NSIP shoddy implementation

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

The Senate yesterday exonerated the Minister of Finance , Budget and National Planning , Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, from allegations of inserting N206 billion into the proposed budget of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

Similar insertions were also discovered in the  budgetary provisions of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies ( MDAs) but the Senate Committee on Appropriation at its sitting yesterday, said Ahmed had no case to answer.

The panel nevertheless frowned at what it called, “shoddy” implementation of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) based on lack of records of verifiable beneficiaries.

The Finance Minister got her clean bill of health on alleged series of paddings in the proposed N20.51trillion 2023 budget when she appeared before the Senate Appropriation panel.

She explained to the committee that the various sums some heads of agencies feigned ignorance of during their interface with relevant committees for budget defence, were approved by the Federal Executive Council  (FEC) before budget presentation itself by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday , October 7, 2022.

She said, “All the proposed budgetary sums like the N206 billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the N8.6 billion in the Ministry of Defence, N195.468 billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power, among others, were all captured before presentation by Mr. President.

“Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of agencies selected for projects execution for sole purpose of transparency.

“The totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771 trillion.

“Had heads of the affected MDAs carried out thorough scrutinisation of their approved budgetary proposals, the issue of insertion or budget padding wouldn’t have arisen at all.

“The Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi had to apologise after feigning ignorance of N8.6 billion in his Ministry’s budget during interface with Senate Committee on Defence.”

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jibrin Barau       (APC Kano North), expressed satisfaction with Ahmed’s submissions.

Barau said the clarifications made by the Minister were well understood by all the committee members and commended her for ensuring transparency with capturing of such loans or grants in the budget.

Earlier at an interface with the Senate Ad – hoc committee on uneven disbursement of N500 billion Development fund by the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq, failed to supply the committee with verifiable evidence of beneficiaries.

She said about 9.8 million pupils nationwide were already benefiting from the school feeding programme on the rate of N100 per meal, aside beneficiaries of other clusters of the programme.

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Sani Musa and other members like Ayo Akinyekure, Uche Ekwunife , Mathew Urhoghide, among others, told the minister that her presentation and that of the Coordinator of the programme, Dr. Umar Bindir , were “beautiful on paper but lacked substance.”

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