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NASS may clash with Presidency again over budget

By Soni Daniel, ASSISTANT EDITOR

Abuja-Indications emerged last night that the National Assembly might confront the Presidency and other members of the government over what they consider as poor implementation of the 2012 budget.

The lawmakers who have just concluded their oversight visits to projects sites across the nation are armed with their findings ready to confront those charged with the budget implementation.

Vanguard reliably gathered that most members of the legislature were shocked to discover that the budget had not been implemented the way the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told them two weeks ago.

When she appeared before the lawmakers, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy had boasted that the budget had been implemented up to 54 per cent and pleaded for their understanding for MDAs to do more.

The intervention followed the threat by the lawmakers to impeach the President if the budget was not satisfactorily implemented at the end of last month.

However, following series of interventions, the aggrieved lawmakers backed down and asked the government to take urgent steps to ensure the faithful implementation of the Appropriation Act.

In spite of that, they subtly prevented the President from presenting his 2013 budget last Thursday, claiming that they wanted more time to undertake the inspection of projects captured in the 2012 budget across the country.

One of the lawmakers told Vanguard yesterday that they were disappointed by what they saw on the ground and that the members were ready to present their findings to Nigerians to see whether the money voted for the 2012 budget had been properly utilised.
The source said: “I can tell you that the report of our various committees that went on oversight functions is ready. The report speaks for itself and Nigerians will be shocked when it is presented.

“The truth of the matter is that the budget has been abysmally implemented despite the fact that all the revenue targets set by the government have since been exceeded.

“The implementation is anything but impressive and we do not know why that has happened because it is not the issue of money. Our members are angry and disappointed over the way and manner the budget has been executed by the MDAs.

Asked if that would trigger the impeachment move, which had earlier been put to rest, the lawmaker, who did not want to be named, said that the mood of the lawmakers would determine what further action they might take against the Executive.

“The good thing now is that each committee of the National Assembly has undertaken an on-the spot assessment of the extent of the implementation of the budget by the respective MDAs and we have an incontrovertible evidence to show that the budget has virtually failed.

File photo: Jonathan during the presentation of the 2012 budget presentation, Tuesday December 12, 2011 in Abuja.

 

“We are certainly going to demand and get adequate explanations from those saddled with the budget implementation. We can no longer be taken for a ride by anyone so that Nigerians do not suffer unduly,” the source stated.

The presentation of the findings of the respective committees is likely to precede President Jonathan’s presentation of the 2013 budget to the National Assembly on Thursday.

It will be recalled that the House of Representatives had earlier put the level of budget performance at 39 per cent and threatened to invoke impeachment proceedings against the President.

But the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala quickly disputed the level of budget performance for the year, putting her figure at 56 per cent.

But the Deputy Senate President fumed over the poor implementation of the budget saying, “We in the National Assembly decided that we are going to do everything possible to send the budget back to the executive the way it came, so that there would be no argument of whether it would be implemented or not.

This is because over the years, we have had this issue of non-implementation of budget and the reason they usually give surrounds the area of National Assembly input. So, we decided we are going to make minimal input if anything at all.

“So, on the basis of this, we returned the budget basically the way it came. And even when we criticized some areas of which some adjustments needed to be made, we had to bend at the risk of being accused of tampering with the budget so as to ensure that they received the budget the way they wanted so that implementation would be easier”, he said.

Ekweremadu regretted that despite of their efforts, the level of implementation has remained low. “Unfortunately, the level of implementation has been less than commendable and that is why we are worried.”


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