BY SONI DANIEL, REGIONAL EDITOR, NORTH
Members of the House of Representatives and the Presidency may soon clash again over the implementation of the 2013 budget, which the lawmakers reluctantly passed into law.
The looming face-off stems from the discovery by the lawmakers that the Executive had not cash backed most of the funds said to have been released to ministries, departments and agencies.
Apparently to gather appropriate facts with which to confront the executive, the lawmakers last week suspended plenary for two weeks and concentrated on oversight tours of MDAs and project sites to see things for themselves.
Vanguard learnt yesterday that most lawmakers were shocked to discover that not much had been achieved in the implementation of the 2013 budget by the MDAs.
It was learnt that the lawmakers were angry that the money said to have been released to the agencies of government and recorded as achievement by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, was not actually released to the benefiting agencies of government.
A principal officer in the National Assembly confirmed to Vanguard that the implementation of the 2013 budget by the Executive was nothing to write home about and expressed the desire of the lawmakers to seek answers to the problem.
“I can tell you right away that the implementation of the 2013 budget is at the lowest ebb and that is not in the interest of the generality of Nigerians, who elected us to the National Assembly.
“We intend to seek answers to the shoddy implementation of the budget from those concerned. That is why we had to suspend plenary for two weeks to enable us to go round and see things for ourselves and get the facts and figures to be able to do our work well upon return.
“It is very disappointing to note that as in the previous years, the budget has not been properly implemented and our people left to suffer in the process,” the lawmaker said.
When contacted on the development, the Chairman House Committed on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said he would not comment on any matter, as he was on break.
Zakari asked one of our correspondents to contact him for clarification of any issue when the members resume in two weeks’ time.
The 2013 budget was passed into law by the NASS on December 22, 2012 but the President withheld his assent to it till late February this year.
Crisis had erupted over the budget following the insistence by the Presidency on a major amendment of the fiscal policies, which the lawmakers argued must come by way of amendment.
But it took many months for the lawmakers to approve the amendment sought by the President, thereby further delaying the implementation of the budget.
“As part of the understanding reached with its leadership, the observations of the executive arm of government about the Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly will be further considered by the National Assembly through legislative action, to ensure effective and smooth implementation of the 2013 Appropriation Act in all aspects”, Jonathan said after assenting to the bill on February 26.
“The administration remained “fully committed to the positive transformation of the country, and effective and efficient service delivery for the benefit of all citizens.
“All Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government have therefore been directed to work very hard to ensure that all the services, projects and programmes contained in the budget are successfully delivered on schedule in spite of the slight delay in its enactment”.