Budget details ready in 2 weeks – Reps

By The Citizen

The House of Representatives on Wednesday said the National Assembly needed two weeks to work on the details of the 2016 budget.

This disclosure came against the backdrop of the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Appropriation Bill as passed last week by the National Assembly.

The President had withheld his assent, saying he would only perform this sacrosanct duty when he has seen details of the budget. It would be recalled that the National Assembly finally passed a budget of N6.06trn on Wednesday last week, an amount that is N17bn lower than the original N6.07trn presented by the executive in December last year.

The document was subsequently transmitted, without the details to the Presidency within 24 hours by the Office of the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Salisu Maikasuwa.

Briefing journalists on the matter, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Jibrin Abdulmumin, explained that it was not abnormal for the President to withhold assent to a bill until he sees the details. Abdulmumin said with the series of challenges faced in the course of working on the budget, it would be very difficult for anybody to start throwing stones at the National Assembly.

He described the budget as the most challenging the National Assembly had ever passed in its recent history because of its many controversies and omissions. He explained that since the budget was brought to the National Assembly late, it was necessary the committee took its time to avoid any mistake. 'The general public should note that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, and 2016 budget proposal came to NASS very late.

'A lot of dusts were raised over different versions of the budget circulated in the National Assembly; again some ministers disowned the content of the budget during their defence,' he said. Jibrin added that amidst the inconsistencies and discrepancies associated with the budget, NASS had been deeply engrossed in perfecting the anomalies. He further added that NASS had also 'been ironing out the wrinkles and stretching the twists inherent in the 2016 Appropriation Bill.' This, he said, was to ensure that the nation moved forward without stagnation of administrative processes. 'In view of the inconsistencies, errors, omissions and padding that characterised the 2016 budget, it will be unpatriotic of NASS to forward the details without being extra-careful, meticulous and cautious in discharging its duties.

'This is to ensure we do not make the same mistake that the executive made,' he said. The chairman said the Appropriation Committee needed to scrutinise the original proposal of the budget sent by President Buhari.

He added that it also needed to scrutinise the reports of various standing committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, to arrive at a clean copy of the budget details. According to him, that would in no way affect any envelop already passed or the aggregate expenditure. He stressed that NASS held the President in high esteem and would continue to support his administration in the interest of the nation as it had always done.

'At the risk of sounding immodest, the NASS approved the President's special advisers without hitch, approved ministerial nominees without rancour and approved supplementary budget without delay,' he said. The lawmaker disclosed that details of the budget should be ready for transmission to the executive in about two week's time. 'We would take a week or two to work on the details. We are doing the final harmonisation checks here and there. That should not take more than a week or two,' he said. - National Mirror.