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Senate Allays Fears Over 2012 Budget Delay

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ABUJA, December 7, (THEWILL) - The Senate Wednesday said the delay in the presentation of the 2012 budget to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is nothing to worry about since would not affect the overall performance of the budget.

Senate's spokesman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe in response to doubts expressed by Senators over possible negative impact in the implementation of the budget, assured that the 2012 budget stands no risk of underperformance since it forms part of the Medium Term Fiscal Framework, MTEF being considered by the Senate.

"We just considered the medium term expenditure framework, and once we pass the medium term expenditure framework, it will give the basis for the budget.

"You will recall that we are in agreement with Mr. President that we should do things not just for one year, but for over a period of time and the MTEF which is up to 2015. The budget is a part of the MTEF. Once the MTEF is put in place, then the budget inside it will also come out. I don't think we have too much of a problem right now, because the underlying assumptions and basis in the budget is also the same underlying assumptions and basis in the MTEF,” the Abaribe stated.

Recall that members of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and inter-governmental affairs had raised doubts over the implementation of the 2012 budget.

The lawmakers had during the course of an oversight tour of Nigeria Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiatives, NEITI in Abuja, echoed fears that the 2012 budget may perform below 50 percent as a result of delay in its passage.

Nonetheless, Senators led by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character and inter-governmental affairs, Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta asked Nigerians to hold the federal government responsible if the 2012 budget fails.

According to him, the late submission of the budget to National Assembly will no doubt frustrate the quick passage of the budget bill.

"By September 2011, the budget for 2012 is supposed to be in the National Assembly, up till now, we have not been able to get it. And if it should come now, we are going to look at it till 2012 maybe January or February before the National Assembly will then pass it. How can the budget then work?

"We talk about less than 50 percent implementation of our budget all the time, this is the problem. But the masses will be looking at us. The problem is not with the National Assembly. The problem is with the Presidency and the executive. The budget has always been below 50 percent because we do not get it on time and the monies approved are always not released to ministries, departments and agencies on time," the senator said.

Earlier in her remark, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed told the committee that the agency recovered N225 billion for the federal government from the taxes, royalties and levies from the oil sector between 2004 and 2008.

She however said the agency was unable to carry out audit of oil sector and solid minerals in the last three years.

According to her, "We were able to block all the poor institutional leakages between technical and financial aspect of the industry. It has helped us to recover through our audit $1 billion in 2004 for the federal government and it was paid into the consolidated account of the federation."