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2011 BUDGET: REPS WARN GOVT AGENCIES

By NBF News
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BY TORDUE SALEM
The House of Representatives yesterday threatened to suspend the entire 2011 budget if 31 non-remitting agencies did not present their budget proposal in one week. The House had alleged that 31 government agencies were yet to submit their budget proposals for appropriation purposes.

The N4.2 trillion 2011 budget suffers a deficit of N1.3trillion, despite rising cost of crude oil (it sells at $120 pb) and tonnes of funds generated by non-remitting agencies of government. .

The House also threatened sanctions against those 31 agencies, including the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, for refusing to comply with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which mandated them to submit their budget estimates to the National Assembly.

Reviewing the level of work done by the House Committees on the processing of the 2011 budget bill, the lawmakers expressed disappointment over what they described as consistent refusal of the 31 agencies to comply with the law.

Deputy Speaker, Usman Nafada, who presided over the session, said the manner in which the agencies spent the money they generated was constituting a threat to the revenue of the nation.

He said the law setting up the agencies would be amended to force them to stop spending whatever they generated.

At the presentation of the 2011 budget proposal to the National Assembly in December, 2010, Speaker Dimeji Bankole drew attention to the provision of the fiscal responsibility act which dictated that annual budgets of all federal agencies be submitted to the National Assembly together with the national budget.

Bankole had said: 'May I remind the National Assembly and of course our invited guests of the Fiscal Responsibility Act passed by this National Assembly this year.  Part 4 Section 21 Sub Section 1 stated the government corporation and agencies and government owned companies listed in the schedule of this Act shall have their estimate submitted to Ministry of Finance.

'The Ministry shall cost the estimates submitted in pursuance of Sub Section 2 of this section to be attached as part of the of the Appropriations Bill to be submitted to the National Assembly.'

Expressing the annoyance of the House on the alleged failure to comply with this law, Nafada said:  'I have asked the clerk of the House on whether the agencies have submitted their budget estimates in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act and he told me that four of them submitted to committees.'

'But the law said that they should submit it to the National Assembly. I am also aware that even the CBN has not submitted its budget estimates. This won't solve the problem.

'Again, the NNPC has not submitted anything at all. Like we earlier resolved, the budget will not be passed without the submission from these agencies. As at today, the CBN has invested over one billion naira AMCON. Honourable colleagues, take it easy, we are not going to pass the budget without the budget estimates of the 31 agencies.'

The Deputy Speaker said it became urgent and important for the National Assembly to review the budget of the 31 agencies, because 'the overheads of just three of these agencies are more than the national overhead. And the price of crude oil has been rising, so we have to put a stop to the manner in which these agencies spend money.

'The fact that your brother is the head of an agency today does not mean that he should not obey the law because nobody is above the law.'

Earlier, Chairman of the committee on Rules and Business, Rep. Ita Enang, had urged his colleagues to take a collective stand against passing the Budget without the budget estimates of the 31 agencies.