By Victoria Ojeme
ABUJA– The ECOWAS Parliament has begun the review of the $284.9 million 2018 draft budget of the community.
This is the institution’s first time to review the community’s budget since its powers were enhanced in December 2016. The draft budget was presented to the parliamentarians by the ECOWAS Administration and Finance Committee (AFC).
A member of the Administration, Finance and Budget Control Committee of the parliament, Hon. Melvin Snowe Jnr said the parliament could only give its opinion on the budget.
“The way the text is written for now, the parliament can only render an opinion. We render an opinion that goes to the council of ministers; that opinion is subject to the council’s opinion. Nothing from the parliament is binding. It is a gradual process,” says Snowe, who is also a member of the Adhoc Committee on the 2018 Draft Budget of the Community.
To chair the Adhoc Committee on the 2018 draft budget is Hon. Orlando Pereira Dias, assisted by Hon. Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi, the deputy chair of the committee.
Snowe said about 65 per cent of the 2017 budget had been implemented so far. AFC’s summarised report of the community budget indicates an increase, from $267.9m in 2017 to $284.9m in the proposed 2018 budget. The report, however, showed overall cuts on the community’s institutions and agencies including the Commission, Parliament, ECOWAS Court, GIABA and WAHO.
The AFC also made cuts in certain areas of the proposed 2018 budget amounting to $2.7m, to boost other aspects which it noted will have a greater impact on the community. Affected areas include Solidarity Funds, Human Resources, Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Energy, among others. The $2.7m will boost: scholarships for community citizens on basic education, Center for Youths and Sports, Multilateral Surveillance on Single Currency, Telecommunications, political affairs and peace and security issues.
Meanwhile, the Vice President of the Commission, Edward Singhatey urged the parliament to include the issue of the African migrants in Libya in the proposed budget. Senegalese President, Mackay Sall had on Tuesday charged ECOWAS to establish actions to ensure the repatriation of African migrants in Libya. The parliament is scheduled to hold plenary sitting to consider the situation of sub-Sharan migrants in Libya on December 8, 2018.
However, the parliament halted review of the draft budget due to the unavailability of a detailed report on the budget presented to the parliamentarians. Hon. Snowe revealed that community procedures state the parliament has a week to deliberate on the draft budget, 48 hours after the AFC’s submission of the draft report.
The lack of a detailed draft budget may affect the parliament’s timely review on the budget. This is despite parliament’s decision to move up its decision on the draft budget from 27th to 28th November, the deadline for submission to the Council of Ministers