Senate Threatens to Arrest Finance Minister on Budget Implementation
The Minister who is attending an investment forum in London sent a high powered delegation including two former senators to appease the lawmakers, but all to no avail.
The Senate walked out Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate President and Secretary to the Federal Government and Senator Idris Umar, Minister of Transport. Also they did not even attempt to listen to the Minister of State, Finance, Dr. Yerima Lawan Ngama, or J. Ajiboye, the Auditor-General of the Federation as the hearing was cancelled.
The Senate is in possession of a document that they say puts the budget implementation level at 12.16% and not 56% as claimed by the Finance minister. The document which was obtained from the office of the Accountant General states a total sum of N401, 648, 460, 791 has been so far released with N324, 556, 851, 948 of that amount being cash backed.
Only N184, 848, 092, 533 of the amount released has been utilized as at 20th July 2012. Capital allocation for 2012 budget stands at N1, 519, 986, 106, 691 and only 21.35 per cent of the total allocation has been cash backed. And the percentage amount utilized from the releases so far stood at 12.16% as at July 20th.
The document states, “The performance of 56.95 per cent as indicated by the office of the accountant general is the percentage of amount utilized (184 billion) of the amount cash backed (342 billion) as at 20th July, 2012 and not of the entire capital budget. The actual utilization of N184 billion against the total capital of N1.5 trillion is 12.16 percent”.
The Senate Deputy Leader expressed his disappointment at the failure of the minister to attend the important hearing even after allegations that it was the lawmakers scheming that their constituency projects be funded that was responsible for the impeachment threat over poor budget implementation.
He said, “We had expected the Minister of Finance and coordinating minister for the economy to be here today because she’s central to all that we are going to discuss here today as our chairman on appropriation had mentioned this matter was supposed to be discussed last week but the Minister was unavoidably absent.
“We learnt that she went to Asaba to declare open a SURE-P Programme. We consider our meeting with her on an issue that has to do with budget implementation to be more important than any other assignment. Today we have also been told that she’s gone to London to represent the President on an investment forum for which we know there are other ministers and government officials that could as well have done that to enable her to be here with us this afternoon. So it is regrettable that she is not here.
”One of the excuses we’ve read from the pages of newspapers for non performance of the budget is what they considered as the tinkering of the budget by the National Assembly. And so what we had wanted to do today is to hear from the executive where the tinkering is.
“Let us hear and let the people of Nigeria hear what the National Assembly did to the budget that made it impossible for it to be implemented so that our committee chairmen here would have the opportunity of responding.
“So it is not enough for the Executive or the Minister of Finance to accuse the National Assembly of tampering with the budget that made it impossible for it to be implemented and then National Assembly is saying no, it is not so.
”So we decided a situation where the press will be the arbiter and then they will listen to us and the executive and then know where it went wrong if it did. And if there are areas that the National Assembly should be blamed and the Nigerian public should hear and if they have response from the National Assembly, our appropriate committees should also respond.
“Now, the stage is set but the minister is not here and we are worried about it. So, it will be absolutely impossible for us to do this dialogue with the absence of the coordinating minister of the economy. I have discussed with my colleagues and what we intend to do now is to allow our committee on appropriation to look for an appropriate date possibly by Thursday and ensure that the minister comes. Even if it needs summoning her to ensure that she appears before the committee to tell Nigerians the degree of releases and of course for the SGF to tell Nigerians the degree of utilization by MDAs.
“It is not just enough that releases were made and then utilization. We want to see whether those releases and utilization are impacting on Nigerians. We want to see it in roads, we want to see the water projects going on; we want to see the electricity projects going on. We have appropriated for the security situation in the country. We want to see whether there have been releases and whether they are utilized. That’s exactly what we thought this public hearing will afford all of us today.
“So for now, we are disappointed that it is not going to take place. I have the mandate of my colleagues to adjourn this public hearing to enable the Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister to show up and, as I said, the chairman of the committee on appropriation should take immediate steps including if possible summoning the minister to show up before the senate committee on appropriation and other relevant committees by Thursday this week.
“So this public hearing is adjourned to Thursday at the same time and the minister for finance is expected to be there no matter the circumstance”.