OrderPaperToday – The Senate has passed the 2016 Budget in spite of what senators were told were ‘outstanding lapses’ that were neither filled by the Executive nor corrected by the parliament.
The senate in passing the budget bill on Wednesday authorized the issuance of N6,060,677,358,227 from the Federation Account for the fiscal year 2016.
The budget as passed however, represents a reduction of N17,002,641,773 from the original figure of N6,077,680,000,000 proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari when he presented the bill on Dec. 22, 2015 to a joint sitting of the National Assembly.
The recurrent expenditure was reduced by N2.2 billion from a proposed 2.648 trillion to N2.646 trillion.
Today’s budget passage followed the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Appropriation Chaired by Sen. Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe).
Goje in explaining the report before a clause-by-clause passage by senators, told the senate that “the 2016 Budget contained some omissions particularly in the area of personnel cost” and that “though the Appropriation Committee has filled some of the gaps, there are many outstanding cases which could raise serious concern in the course of the year.”
He advised that “there should be proper engagement in future between the Budget Office of the Federation and the MDAs on Budget content to avoid a disconnect between them,” while urging the senate to approve the budget as presented by the committee.
He recalled that the 2016 budget was fraught with some inconsistencies from Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government, adding that available revenue was inadequate to meet demands, adding that the bill was presented late and did not give ample time for consideration.
Picking holes in the report, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu) explained that since the executive presented a proposal it was the job of the senate to cover up the lapses.
He said: “The executive presented what we considered as proposal and so the ultimate responsibility for this budget rests on us the member of the National Assembly. If there are mistakes on the part of the executive, it ends at the point they presented the budget, if anything happens after that and we pass the budget, we cannot blame them any longer.
“I therefore want to know what these outstanding cases are because it appears that it is in relation to personnel cost. It may not be a good commentary on the part of the National Assembly if at the end of the year we discover that the people we are representing cannot been paid because we have failed to or neglected to appropriate for them their due salaries and emolument.”
In his response, Sen. Goje clarified that the lapses would be taken care of from the Service Wide Vote by a Supplementary Budget if the need arose.
According to him, if the committee had attempted to clear all the lapses, the budget would not have been ready for passage and that Nigerians would assume the legislature had delayed the budget deliberately.
“We still have pockets, few that we believe will have some problems and the budget office confirmed to us that they may come with something to make it up,” adding: “Because this budget is full of controversy, we didn’t want to add more controversy: if we add more controversy, the report wouldn’t have been submitted now.
“The National Assembly will be blamed for delaying this budget; that is why we did everything possible to ensure that we beat the deadline instead of continuing back and forth. Nigerians will not understand, they will say the National Assembly is playing politics with this budget and meanwhile we are doing everything possible to ensure that the budget is as implementable as possible.”
The Budget as passed was predicated on an oil benchmark of $38 dollars per barrel; daily crude oil production of 2.2 million barrels and an exchange rate of N197 to a US dollar.
While presenting his report for consideration, Sen. Goje gave the budget breakdown as follows: “Aggregate Expenditure 6,060,677,358,227: Statutory Transfers – N351,370,000,000; Debt Service – N1,475,320,000,000; Recurrent Expenditure – N2,646389,236,196; Capital Expenditure – N1,587,598,122,031; and Fiscal Deficit – N2,204,936,925,711.16.”
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, in his remark commended the committee for a job well done, noting that the budget reflected an efficient and equitable allocation of resources.
He however expressed optimism that in future, the hiccups experienced in the budget would be avoided through more interactions between the budget office and other agencies while urging the federal government to present its budget in time in future to allow for more rigorous review.
The senate adjourned plenary to April 12, 2016.