2014 Budget: Reps, Presidency on collision over N296bn service wide vote

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ABUJA — There were indications yesterday that the passage of the 2014 budget would not come easy, as the House of Representatives, has kicked against a huge amount of money being inserted in the fiscal document as Service Wide Vote, SWV, by the Presidency.

Under the current budget, which President Goodluck Jonathan submitted to the National Assembly last year, N296 billion was set aside as Service Wide Vote, which is interpreted by the lawmakers to mean free money not attached to any specific project, and therefore, not often accounted for by the Executive at the end of the fiscal year.

House of Representatives members and the President Goodluck Jonathan

House of Representatives members and President Goodluck Jonathan

A senior member of the House of Representatives told Vanguard that they might not pass the budget until the Presidency gave adequate explanations on what it intended to do with the amount described as SWV.

The lawmaker, who is a member of the leadership, pointed out that in the spirit of the anti-corruption posture of the administration, they would require the items of expenditure to be attached to the SWV before they could pass the budget.

The lawmaker said, “we have already seen the money set aside in this year’s budget as SWV and we cannot just gloss over such a substantial amount that can make a whole lot of difference in the lives of Nigerians if properly utilised.

“We have therefore asked the Finance Minister to come along with the utilisation list for the SWV and explain to us what they intend to do with such amount of money. We are not going to allow them to just give us a blanket vote like in the previous years.

“It is either they furnish us with what they want to do with the money and we pass the budget or they forget about it,” the lawmaker said.

Last year, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, Adeola Olamilekan, described the SWV as a drain pipe on the nation’s scarce resources and called for its discontinuation.

While addressing some heads of departments in the House of Representatives last year, Olamilekan said the SWV was a ‘mere drain pipe’ for siphoning the nation’s revenue into the pockets of fraudulent civil servants.

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