By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — SECRETARY to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, yesterday, appeared before the Senate to defend the 2017 budget proposals for his office.
He told senators that his office had a proposal of N9.882,782,935 billion to be spent this year.
He also disclosed that the allowances for former Presidents were sufficiently covered in the 2017 budget, but not openly budgeted for in the proposal.
The SGF also told the senators that N400 million was proposed for the purchase of vehicles for former Presidents since their vehicles were usually due for change at the end of four years.
He said his office also budgeted N2,692,391,118 for capital projects for the 2017, lamenting that funds appropriated to the office of the SGF in the 2016 budget were grossly inadequate to meet some of the responsibilities of the office.
Lawal, who appeared before the Senator Tijjani Kaura (APC Zamfara North) led Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, said of the amount, N3,408,763,591 was proposed for payment of personnel costs; N3,781,628,226 for overheads, a figure which showed an increase of N2 billion, compared to 2016 appropriation.
The meeting which lasted over 45 minutes, was attended by Senator Tijjani Kaura who presided, and his vice, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, APC Kaduna North.
Lawal, who was billed to appear before the committee last week but appeared before the panel, yesterday, however, explained that his absence was necessitated by the urgency to condole with families of the bereaved, particularly the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, over the death of his first wife.
Senators want Finance Ministry, Budget office probed
In their separate responses, members of the committee agreed with Mr. Lawal that the 10 percent released by the Ministry of Finance to his office in 2016 was insufficient, particularly against the backdrop of what was proposed.
According to them, the insufficient amount is an indication that there is a problem between the Budget Office and Ministry of Finance, which must be tackled.
Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, while commending the Federal Fovernment for adequate releases to MDAs in 2016, said the committee would investigate the poor release to the OSGF.
He said: “The capital budget funding of 2016 is phenomenal. In the last 17 years, I have not come across anywhere government has been able to fund adequately the budget of MDAs.
“Something is definitely wrong, and we need to get behind what went wrong. If it is a problem between Finance and Budget, we need to get at it and understand what it is.
‘’It is unlike this government to do that. We need to come down to what went wrong, where, who is in charge of that and re-mediate it.”
Drawing the attention of the SGF to the non-payment of former Presidents, Senator Hunkuyi demanded to know if same was captured in the. 2017 budget and in his response, the SGF explained that the allowances for former President was sufficiently covered in the 2017 budget, though not openly budgeted for in the proposal.