We won't alter N6.07tn budget size – Reps

By The Citizen

The House of Representatives maintained on Sunday that the N6.07tn proposed as the total size of the 2016 budget was not likely to be altered after the ongoing 'clean-up' of the financial document would have been completed.

Controversies have surrounded the budget since President Muhammadu Buhari laid the estimates before a joint session of the National Assembly on December 22 last year.

Two weeks ago, the Executive arm of government admitted that there were indeed discrepancies in the budget.

The discovery had since cost some top officials of government their jobs.

There were frightening dimensions to the discrepancies when several Senate and House committees found out that the documents presented by some Ministries, Departments and Agencies were different from the copy submitted to the legislature by Buhari.

Some ministers also openly disowned the proposals of their MDAs, while some heads of parastatals could not differentiate between the documents approved for them by the Budget Office of the Federation and the initial proposals they sent to the BOF.

The development had affected the original plan of the Senate and the House to pass the budget by February 25, which was later shifted to the second week of March.

The shift was to give ample time for the committees of the National Assembly to sit with the appropriate officials of the government to clean up the budget, amid expectations that the exercise would significantly alter the budget size of N6.07tn.

But, the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, on Sunday dismissed any expectations of a change in the budget size.

'No, we will pass the budget size of N6.07tn,' he stated in Abuja.

Namdas said what the National Assembly committees were required to do was to move funds around within the various sub-heads while still retaining the total figure.

He explained that there were funds located in certain sub-heads where they were not needed.

Namdas added that on the other hands, there were sub-heads where such funds would be useful but they were starved of money.

'Thus, in cleaning up the budget, these are the considerations that will come up.

'The committees are busy working; we want to allocate resources to where they will be needed.

'The provisions in the budget will no longer be the same by the time the document leaves the National Assembly; money will go to where it is needed, though we will retain N6.07tn,' he stated.

Investigations by The PUNCH showed that a number of standing committees had already made such re-allocation of funds in their separate recommendations to the main Committee on Appropriation.

For example, The PUNCH found out that the Committee on Federal Road Safety Commission, had slashed the agency's proposal for Internet access from N18m to N10m.

The committee, which is headed by Mr. Abubakar Yinusa, also cut the FRSC's vehicle maintenance sub-head from N79m to N59m.

Similarly, the proposal of N122m for fuelling of vehicles was slashed by N50m, leaving the sub-head with N72m.

The committee moved the funds to other sub-heads such as international training and publicity.

The committee recommended N40m for publicity on the grounds that the FRSC needed more funds to carry out sensitisation on safe driving and how motorists could apply new technologies deployed by the corps in 2016.

Findings indicated that among agencies to benefit from the re-allocation funds could be the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

One official said, 'If you look at the case of the EFCC, you will understand how haphazardly this budget was planned.

'We are fighting corruption seriously as a government this year. But, how do you defend cutting the overheads of the EFCC from N2.9bn to N1.3bn?

'They should have realised that the EFCC would need more money this year. Meanwhile, these funds are lying idle under some sub-heads.' Punch