Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq
Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, has expressed satisfaction with the clarification provided by the Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning on the N206. 242 billion provided for the National Social Safety Nets Project – Scale Up (NSSNP-SU) in the 2023 federal government budget.
The provision became a subject of public interest following last week’s .media reports that Hajiya Farouq claimed she knew nothing about N206 provided in the budget of her ministry.
However, at the House Committee on Appropriation interactive meeting, yesterday, in Abuja, she exonerated the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning from the allegation of budget padding.
Hajiya Farouq, represented by Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Nasir Gwarzo, was quoted in a statement by Mr. Tanko Abdullahi, Special Adviser to Minister of Fianance, Mrs. ZainabAhmed as saying, “Before I comment on the content of the comment, let me comment on the context.
“I was at the briefing when the Minister was asked a question about the code, and she said that she did not understand that, and that she would get clarification.
“Then the chairman obliged that the clarification will be brought and the matter was closed.
In his word: “One of the members then, in his summary, insinuated that that was padding, and that was what the press took. So, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs did not mention or use the word padding.
“She requested for time to correct this mistake that she observed. Secondly, we did not go to the media refuting or challenging, rather we wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning seeking for clarification.
“Therefore, I concur totally that what has been provided in the budget is part of our project. The only mistake was the coding which has been clarified, even before this interactive meeting”
The Permanent Secretary, distanced Hajiya Farouq from the allegation of any N206 billion insertion into her Ministry’s 2023 Appropriation Bill by the Ministry of Finance.
It would be recalled that Sadiya Farouq appeared before the Senate Committee on Special Duties to defend 2023 budget proposal at the National Assembly.
She claimed that the Ministry requested for some projects for the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and the National Social Safety Net Project in the 2022 budget which was not released.
She, however, said that her Ministry was surprised that the money inserted was then 10 times of the 2023 proposed budget for her Ministry.
The Honourable Minister, who expressed surprise, said: “Yes we made mention of the projects for 2022, which was not released, and part of it was for the NEDC.
She also said: “The money was not released and now we have seen it recurring by almost 10 folds, and we are also going to clarify from the Ministry of Finance to know why this increase, despite the fact that the previous year, the money was not even released for the project. So, we will get the details then send to you on that.
On upscaling of the National Social Safety Net Project, she said: “These projects are under the National Social Safety Net, the condition cash transfer, the updating of the National Social Register and the Rapid Response Register as well to cushion the effect of inflation.
“This is all I can say for this. I cannot really give full details of how this amount is going to be utilised, because it is something that was negotiated between the Ministry of Finance and World Bank.”
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, explained that there was an error in the budget of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs as the N206 billion captured in the budget proposal of the ministry was wrongly coded by the Budget Office.
Mrs. Ahmed said that the N206 billion alleged insertion which had generated serious reactions within the week was for the National Social Safety Nets Project funded by the World Bank and domiciled in the Humanitarian Ministry.
She noted that the wrong coding resulted in the item being wrongly captured as ‘purchase of security equipment’ but that it had nothing to do with Budget padding, but an oversight.
According to her, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management should have called the attention of the budget office to the anomaly like her counterparts in other ministries.
She disclosed that the Minsitry of Defence, Federal Minsitry of Power, among others, also committed the same error.
The Minister called for collaboration among ministries department and agencies (MDAs) of the government in a bid to forestall such oversight.