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Fresh Row Over 2013 Budget As Jonathan Returns Document To N'Assembly

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…Proposes new amendment, protests zero allocation to SEC

ABUJA, March 19, (THEWILL) - Indications of a fresh row over the 2013 budget emerged Tuesday as President Goodluck Jonathan returned the document to the National Assembly with a proposal for an amendment of the controversial document.

In what appears to be a subtle rejection of the Budget document by the executive, President Jonathan, who signed into the document into law last month was to return it to the National Assembly, specifically asking for immediate amendment to clauses 6(1) 9 , 7 and 10 of the 2013 Appropriation Act .

The President hinged his request on his conviction that such provisions are not only injurious to the spirit of separation of powers but could also hamper the work of the executive arm of government.

Jonathan, who also protested the zero allocation to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other clauses in the budget, warned that the fiscal estimate as signed is "injurious to the spirit of separation of powers."

In the amendment proposal entitled: “Submission of the 2013 Amendment and the Subsidy Reinvestment and empowerment Programme (SURE-P) Amendment budget Proposal”, Jonathan noted that the budget of SEC does not form part of the core 2013 federal budget as presented to the National Assembly as listed by the lawmakers.

It would be recalled that both the Senate and House of Representatives had passed a vote of no confidence on the Director General of SEC, Ms. Aruma Otte, and even called for her sack.

But in a letter to the Senate President, Senator David Mark, which was read on the Senate's floor, Jonathan specifically rejected clauses 6(11) and 9 which requires the Accountant General of the Federation(AGF) to forward to the National Assembly full details of funds released to the government agencies .

Section 9 of the budget also states that “all accounting officers of the Ministries , Parastatals and Departments of Government who control heads of expenditures shall, upon the coming into effect of the Act, furnish the National Assembly on a quarterly basis, with detailed information on the internally generated revenue of the agency in any form whatsoever .”

But the President, in the two page letter, insisted that the said quarterly briefing as provided in section 9 of the 2013 budget runs counter to the established chain of reporting .

President Jonathan also rejected clause 7 in the budget which partly reads that “ the Minister of Finance shall ensure that funds appropriated under this Act are released to the appropriate agencies and or organs as at when due , provided that no funds for any quarter of the fiscal year shall be deferred without prior waiver from the National Assembly.”

The president in the letter insisted that the provision was counter- productive and therefore should be amenable to trouble.

“This requires the Minister of Finance to seek a waiver from the National Assembly each time the ministry cannot make full funds releases to MDAS when due.

"As you are aware , the nation experiences shortfalls in revenue once in a while and if the minister is to seek waiver on each occasion , the practice would whittle down the budget implementation , as this would involve the minister writing a formal letter to the National Assembly , presented in plenary and sent to the relevant committees for discussion.” He said. ‘

President Jonathan told the stunned senators that ‘ these would create delays and constraints on the budget implementation.

He also asked the lawmakers to amend section 10 of the budget which read; “All revenue however described, including all fees, fines, grants, budgetary provisions and all internally generated revenue shall not be spent by the Security and Exchange Commission for re-current or capital purposes or for any other matters, nor liabilities thereon incurred except with prior Appropriation and Approval by the National assembly.”

He said “the import of clause 10 is tantamount to shutting down the business of the commission with a potential negative impact on the capital market.”