Senate postpones budget passage, says 2016 fiscal plan full of errors, padded figures

By The Citizen
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The National Assembly on Tuesday claimed that it had noticed unnecessary padding of figures, mistakes, inconsistencies and other anomalies in the 2016 Appropriation Bill, presented by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The lawmakers said the anomalies became manifest during budget defence by ministries, departments and agencies of government.

As a result, they will no longer approve the budget on February 25 as earlier promised, even as a new date is yet to be announced.

Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, in a joint press conference stated that following the discoveries, the budget would now be thoroughly and carefully looked into before passage.

The lawmakers assured that a thorough clean up would have to take place by the appropriation committees of both chambers to make the budget workable and implementable when eventually passed.

Speaking on behalf of the two committees, Goje said: 'We designed a timetable for the consideration and passage of the budget. That particular timetable was to the effect that we will pass the budget on February 25, 2016. But as you are all aware, a lot of issues have come up and gladly so even the Executive arm of government has also come out to accept the fact that there have been a lot of errors in the budget.

'Again, during budget defence, a lot of issues based on padding, arising from over-bloated overhead and in some instances cases of over-bloated personnel cost. But generally there have been a lot of issues.

'The appropriation committee would look at these issues after the whole budget defence to do a very thorough work aimed at doing a proper clean up.

'So, in summary, the timetable for the passage of the budget is no longer realistic because appropriation committees of both chambers of the National Assembly need additional time to be able to do a thorough job on the document.'

It would be recalled that in Senate last week when the budget defence session began, it's committee on education, discovered a padded figure of N10bn in its votes for parastatals.

A similar scenario also played out on Monday when Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, declared to the Committee on Health that the ministry's budget forwarded to the committee was not the one drafted by him.

According to Adewole, the provisions of the budget before the National Assembly was in contrast with the priorities of the health sector as contained in the original budget it prepared, adding that some of the votes earmarked by the ministry for some activities had been re-distributed, while some important fields had been excluded.

He said: 'In the revised budget as re-submitted, N15.7bn for capital allocation has been moved to other areas. Some allocations made are not in keeping with our priorities.

There is nothing allocated to public health and family health. Over the last two years, nothing has been done on HIV.

'We have to look into the details of the budget and re-submit it to the committee. This was not what we submitted. We'll submit another one. We don't want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there. We have not reached that stage and we find the money there.'

But the chairmen of the appropriation committees said there would be no room for such withdrawal any longer since the budget details were already with them.

They said what they would do based on submissions of heads of the various government agencies, was to correct all the errors for the budget to be implementable.

Meanwhile the office of the Senate President yesterday stated that the postponement of date for passage of the budget had nothing to do with his CCT trial as being insinuated in some quarters.

Special Assistant to the Senate President on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, who made the clarification said he did so to prevent such insinuation being made a general story. National Mirror