By Ben Agande
Abuja — The Presidency, yesterday, shifted the blame for the slow implementation of the 2012 budget to the doorstep of the National Assembly, saying the insertion of constituency projects by the legislature into the original copy of the budget has significantly altered the budget.
Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who addressed State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting in Abuja maintained that the ultimatum given by the House of Representatives for a 100 per cent implementation of the budget by September was untenable even in advanced economies.
According to the minister, who was accompanied by the Minister of Information and the Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, the insertion of constituency projects by the parliament requires the ministries to commence fresh procurement process which is procedural and backed by the law.
Okonjo-Iweala said the collaboration between the two arms of government on the budget implementation had yielded results as the implementation and utilisation of resources which as at end of May stood at 39 per cent was now at 56 per cent as at July 20.
Third quarter funds for release next two weeks
She said of the budgeted figure of N4.96 trillion, N404 billion had been released with a cash backing of N324 billion and a utilisation of 56 per cent. The minister said the third quarter funds would be released within the next two weeks.
She noted: “We have been working quite collaboratively with the National Assembly on the budget. We have met with the various committees of the House and the Senate and we appreciate the cooperation that we have from them in trying to get this budget and also in working to implementation.
“Let me stress that the objective of Mr. President and that of the execuives is very much the same as that of the National Assembly, which is to ensure that there is budget execution in order to deliver on the development programmes for this country. To that effect, we have really been working hard to try and get this done and I think the proof that the attention the President has been giving to these issues is bearing fruit is the fact that from the review we had last month, where implementation and utilisation of resources was at 39 per cent, we are now at 56 per cent. So, we have moved from 39 per cent as at the end of May to 56 per cent as at July 20.
“So, I think that is a very good progress and we expect to see continuing progress in that particular area. As you know, we have released about N404 billion so far, cashed back N324 billion and the utilisation of that is 56 per cent. We will soon be considering the release of the third quarter funds, we hope to do that within the next two weeks or so.
“We do face a couple of challenges that we have also been working with the National Assembly on, effectively and quietly we have been working with them on a couple of these challenges.
“We hope that the good cooperation we have had with the National Assembly will continue in rectifying some of these moves which you find in the budget because it will also enable MDAs to implement the budget a bit faster.
On 100% budget implementation
On the ultimatum that government must implement 100 per cent of the budget by the end of September, Okonjo-Iweala said: “In terms of 100 per cent implementation, I think what I read that was said by sections of the National Assembly will have to do 100 per cent implementation of the budget by September.
“First, in my experience world wide, there is hardly any country where you would implement 100 per cent even by the end of the year and this is based on very broad experience, but people try to get at least to 80 per cent or 90 per cent of the budget, as much as can be done.
“One hundred per cent by September, you know September is the ninth month of the year, so we will definetly be moving. I think the point is that Mr President is determined to implement this budget as fully as possible and, therefore, we will be moving towards the figure of as full implementation as we can by the end of the year because the budget was made for the whole year.”
“So you can see that there is no lack of effort, no lack of goodwill. If we could go from 39 per cent in May to 56 per cent by mid July, that shows a considerable leap and I’m quite confident that as we go month by month, both us and the National Assembly will be able to look at it and say yes a good effort has been made for the country.”
On his part, the DG BPP said “Part of the global requirement is that public funds must be subjected to scrutiny. In our law, it is open competitive bidding. Projects must remain in public domain for the period of six weeks”.