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Senate uncovers N5bn shortfall in education ministry budget

By The Citizen

The Senate Committee on Basic and Secondary Education on Thursday said it had uncovered N5bn shortfall in the amount provided for meal subsidy for the unity schools across the country and the personnel cost of King's College, Lagos in the 2016 budget proposal submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Vice-Chairman of the committee, Senator Rose Oko, said the anomaly was discovered   during the collation of the 2016 budget by the Senate Committee on Appropriation.

Oko explained to the lawmakers that only N6.8bn was proposed for meal subsidy in unity schools instead of N11.2bn needed.

The amount, according to her, was inadequate for the unity schools meal subsidy, adding that the implication was that the amount provided would only be enough for six months.

This, she added, meant that the ministry would need to look for N5bn to meet up with the shortfall.

She also told the appropriation committee that there was an omission of N338m from the personnel cost of King's College.

She explained that instead of N375m, the ministry budgeted N37m as a result of typographical errors which brought about the shortfall of N338m.

However, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, assured Nigerians that the committee would accommodate the omission in the final budget.

He said his panel would find a way of looking for N5bn in order to cater for meal subsidy in unity schools and personnel cost at the King's College.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday assured Nigerians of effective monitoring of the 2016 budget implementation by involving the various civil society groups in its oversight functions.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Diaspora and Civil Societies Organisations, Senator Rose Oko, who stated this in her office, said the Eight Senate had resolved in its legislative agenda that it would engage, very robustly, the major stakeholders.

She said the civil society groups remained major stakeholders that were critical to the success of the current administration's determination to tackle corruption and achieve fiscal discipline.

She said that the contributions of all the civil society groups who participated in the interactive session with the National Assembly on the 2016 budget would be taken into consideration and adopted by the federal parliament.

She said, 'Going forward, the Senate has promised to involve adequately the CSOs in the process of budget passage, monitoring of its implementation and oversight on Ministries, Departments and Agencies, to curb corruption and extravagance.

Oko said the Senate would soon draw out a programme of action that would bring on board, the CSOs in the area of oversight and other aspects of legislation.

She said, 'We will work out the details of the oversight since this is the first time we are experimenting such an arrangement. The CSOs have also challenged us to be more open with our budget and we have assured them.'

The report of her committee's engagement with the CSOs, was considered on Thursday, with the various groups asking the Federal Government to allocate 10 per cent of the 2016 budget to agriculture.

They also frowned on the inflation of contract in virtually all the parastatals in the Federal Ministry of Education and urged the National Assembly to address the issue as part of measures to tackle the rot in the sector.

The groups, therefore, urged the federal parliamentarians to ensure proper clean-up of the budget before its eventual passage next month. - Punch.