Senate, House pass N4.9tn 2013 amended budget

By The Rainbow

The Senate and the House of Representatives on Thursday passed the 2013 Budget Amendment Bill sent to the National Assembly by President Goodlcuk Jonathan.

The lawmakers restored the missing N77billion meant for personnel cost and eventually passed the proposed  N4.9trillion for the fiscal year.

The upper legislative body of the National Assembly, in a sudden U-turn, approved the proposed amendments, but insisted that N4.9trillion budget was almost the same with the earlier figure and provisions contained in the original 2013 budget approved by the lawmakers in December and accented to by President Goodluck Jonathan last February.

Following a deadlock on the budget as passed by the National Assembly, the President presented an amendment bill on June 27.

The bill seeks to authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation N4, 987, 220,425,601.

The upper chamber adopted without amendment the report of its Committee on Appropriation that restored all the deductions made by the National Assembly on the original Appropriation Bill.

Apart from the complete restoration of the personnel cost as proposed by the Presidency, the Senate also restored all the deductions made on capital projects.

The reductions restored include Abuja-Lokoja road, reduced by N4b; Kano-Maiduguri road reduced by N3.5b; dualisation of Ibadan-Ilorin section 2 reduced by N5.5b; rehabilitation of Jebba Bridge reduced by N1.25b; rehabilitation of burnt Marine Bridge and Iddo Bridge reduced by N1b and Special Intervention Fund for emergency roads and bridges cut across the country reduced by N6.28b.

Mark insisted that standing committees of the Senate must take their oversight seriously to ensure that the budget was implemented faithfully.

The House of Representatives passed the new version of the Amendment Bill of N4,987,220,425,601.

The passed bill was, however, short of N161,771,089 from the N4,987,382,196,690 trillion Amendment Bill presented by President Jonathan.

Before the consideration of the report, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, John Enoh (PDPD, Cross River) explained that the total figure presented in he bill was not different from what the House had earlier passed in the extant Appropriation Act 2013.

He, however, urged his colleagues to pass the bill as the Committee had done a thorough job of scrutinising the document and making inputs.

The recommendations of the report were adopted by the House.

In the passed bill, the lawmakers allocated N2,415,745,972,812 for Recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, as against contrary to N2,418,976,391,494 in the bill sent by the President.

About N1,588,578,805,197 was proposed by the President for contribution to development fund for Capital expenditure, the House passed N1,591,657,252,789.

The House also passed N388,053,200,000 for statutory transfers as against N388,063,000,000 proposed by the President; N591,764,000,000 proposed for debt services was left untouched.

The Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) got N273,522,000,000.

Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Affairs Senator Joy Emodi commended the lawmakers for passing the budget, saying it is 'the triumph of constructive dialogue'.

President Jonathan had, in a letter addressed to Senate President David Mark and read on the floor, told the Senate to restore the over N77billion the lawmakers allegedly unilaterally removed from the 2013 budget for sundry projects.

The president had reminded the Senate that the personnel cost was cut across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), warning that  failure to restore the money would lead to stunted national growth.

In the same vein, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had recently warned that the economy might soon collapse should the Senate fail to pass the amended version of the 2013 budget.

In passing the amended version of the budget, the senators, after a marathon closed session however, advised the executive to keep faith to the approved budget.

The Senate President tasked the standing committees of the Senate to step up their oversight functions on the executive and government agencies.

In his lead debate, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Mohammad Maccido, said the 2013 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill, sent to the National Assembly was not significantly different from the 2013 Appropriation Act that was passed by the legislature and accented to by President Jonathan early this year.

'The Senate may recall that the 2013 Appropriation Bill was passed by the National Assembly on December 20, 2012 in the sum of N4,987,220,425,601 and was accented to by Mr President, Commander-in-Chief on the 15th of February, 2013.

'Mr President thereafter, on 14th March, 2013, forwarded to the Senate an amendment bill. This was followed by  a new version on 4th June, 2013, which contained some observations on the Appropriation Act, requesting for adjustment of the budget.

'The amendment bill, which seeks to authorise issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N4,987,382,196,690 only, was read a second time on Tuesday, 23rd July, 2013 and referred to the committee for further legislative action', he said.

Senator Maccido said his committee engaged relevant standing committees, in an effort to get their inputs and/or reactions to the amendment sought by the executive arm of government.

He said the committee observed that the provisions in the bill for personnel costs had been restored, adding that the amendment bill, as worked upon by the appropriation committees of both chambers of the National Assembly, did not increase the aggregate expenditure from what was contained in the 2013 Appropriation Act.

He, therefore, said, 'Given the above, I hereby move that the Senate do consider and approve the 2013 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill, in the sum of N4,987,220,425,601 only.'