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By Henry Umoru – Abuja
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan said on Thursday that the early consideration and passage of the 2020 budget which returned the country’s budget cycle to January – December, has significantly improved the implementation of this year’s budget.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja on the third-day debate on the general principles of the 2021 Appropriations bill, Lawan said that the country’s return to the January to December budget cycle is a major achievement under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Ninth Assembly.
Meanwhile, the 2021 Appropriations bill which passed the second reading on Thursday, was referred by the Senate President to Senator Jibrin Barau, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kano North led Committee on Appropriations for further legislative work.
The Committee was given four weeks to report back to the Senate.
Speaking further, the President of the Senate said that the low implementation which characterised previous budgets has been significantly improved upon as evidence in the 2020 budget in which Ministries have so far recorded between 50 and 75 percent implementation rates on capital projects across the country.
Lawan said, “in the last three days, we’ve witnessed submissions raising issues about the budget estimates presented to us by Mr. President. This is in continuation of our efforts to ensure the desirable cycle that we have taken the annual budget to (January – December) will be a legacy.
“This will be our legacy as the 9th National Assembly and the legacy of Mr. President.
“We have been able to do this together and there’s definitely a difference in the implementation of the 2020 budget compared to the others.
“Some Ministries and projects have received up to 75 per cent funding. There’s none that has received less than 50 percent.
“While this may not be exactly what we want, it is still an improvement and we will continue to urge the executive to implement the budget up to 100 per cent.
“But I believe that we have seen the benefit of passing the budget in good time, and this is something that we will continue to do.”
On monies generated by agencies of government, the President of the Senate who faulted the country’s low revenue earnings on the failure of revenue agencies to remit all sums to the Federation Account after collection, however, advocated for improved revenue generation, collection, and remittance methods as a way of shoring the nation’s revenue figures.
Lawan said, “Like all of us, I also have some observations. Firstly, I think our revenue generation, collection, and remittances need to be better.
“There are many agencies of government that are supposed to be generating revenues and they do so, but they don’t remit all that they are supposed to,” he said.
The Senate President announced that the relevant Committees would interface on a monthly basis with revenue-generating agencies to evaluate their performance and device ways on how the same can be improved where they underperform or fail to meet revenue targets.
According to him, doing so would reduce the deficit contained in next year’s budget and subsequent ones, as well as reduce Nigeria’s dependence on loans to finance capital projects which the country direly needs.
He said, “When we are able to get more revenues, we will reduce the deficit, because this budget has a big deficit, and this is because we simply have no resources as of today and we need to have our infrastructure in place.
“So, the issue is for us to diversify the funding and finances of the projects. We may not do completely without borrowing, but we could do diversification of the sources of funding. We could go for Public-Private Partnership like many Senators here suggested, so that we reduce the necessity to borrow.
“Whatever it takes, we have to provide infrastructure in this country, otherwise, we would never move beyond where we are.”
The Senate President while underscoring the importance of oversight by the National Assembly, harped on the need for the Federal Government to cut down on the cost of governance by merging some of its agencies.
“The responsibility of the National Assembly or Parliament is that whatever we appropriate is properly, economically, and efficiently applied. This is an oversight function that we must continue to do.
“Before we pass the 2021 budget, we should be able to know how much of 2020 has been implemented. This is because some projects need to be rolled over to 2021, and we need to know the extent to which they have been funded in the 2020 financial year.”