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Senators attack Okonjo-Iweala over poor budget implementation

By on February 26, 2015

Senators on Tuesday accused the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of destroying the economy by allegedly withholding funds meant for capital projects.

The senators, who met behind closed doors for about two hours, were analysing the budget proposals of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government for the 2015 fiscal year and their performances for last year.

They, however, resolved to carry out the necessary legislative duties this year to ensure that the right actions would be taken against government officials who deliberately refused to release funds to execute projects approved for execution.

They also urged members of the various Senate committees working on the budget to expedite action so that it would be passed before the presidential election scheduled for March 28 since the Easter break would come immediately after the polls.

A senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told our correspondent that his colleagues expressed anger at Okonjo-Iweala and accused her of deliberately drawing back the wheel of the nation’s progress.

The senator said, “All of us are not happy that most of the MDAs could not execute any reasonable capital project last year because the little money released to them by the finance minister was not enough to pay the contractors who had executed projects for them in the past.”

Other senators, who spoke to our correspondent after the meeting, said the lawmakers expressed concern over the meagre allocation of N387bn for capital projects in the 2015 budget proposal.

This, they said, was unprecedented even as the recurrent component was allocated over 90 per cent of the N4.3tn in budget estimates.

The lawmakers, it was gathered, vowed that they would not approve such a lopsided allocation.

Consequently, the various committees were directed to liaise with the MDAs to cut down on recurrent votes in order to make more funds available for projects.

The senators later vented their anger on the various committees when some ministers and heads of government agencies appeared before them to defend their 2015 budget proposals.

They vowed to redress the lopsided recurrent expenditure and capital votes in favour of the latter.

For instance, while speaking during the sitting of the Senate Committee on Power, Mines and Steel, Senator Victor Lar, said, “A situation where we considered a budget, have it approved, then somebody sits in an office and refuses to make releases is too bad.

“Ministers and heads of various agencies who had awarded contracts could not pay but somebody would sit in the comfort of her office and declare a surplus. Is that an economy that is growing?

“This is simply lack of planning; this is frustrating and it cannot go on like this. The presentation by the Minister of Steel, for instance, is an opportunity to raise the revenue profile of the ministry from a non-oil sector, which would have enhanced economic growth was frustrated.

“A serious nation would have encouraged this ministry to ensure that everything it required was provided but this is the same ministry that has been subjected to the same envelope system and to the same non-release of capital votes, among others.”

Also, Senator Chris Ngige, expressed fears that the economy might collapse if the current trend of non-release of funds for project execution continued unchallenged by the appropriate arms of government.