Wednesday, July 17, 2019

2019 Budget: Discordant tunes at debate as Reps detect irreconcilable figures

2019 Budget: Discordant tunes at debate as Reps detect irreconcilable figures

The House of Representatives has begun debate on the 2019 Appropriation Bill but the exercise was almost put on hold after some irreconcilable figures were pointed out by a member, Adamu Chika (APC-Niger).

The lawmaker, who represents Shiroro/Rafi/Munya Federal Constituency of Niger, while speaking during plenary on Wednesday, noted that there were also contradictions in the figures noticed in Budgets of some Ministries.

“I want to raise some issues, particularly some errors I noticed in the National Budget. As everybody knows, the schedule in the Budget consists of part A, which is the statutory transfers and part B, which is the debt servicing, part C, which is the recurrent expenditure and part D, which is the capital expenditure.”

“I will raise some issues, which have to do, one, with the Ministry of Education, two, Ministry of Finance and three, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and then, one observation with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).”

According to him, in the Education Ministry, in part C, which is the recurrent expenditure, which consists of  Personnel and Overhead, it was discovered that the Budget is N462.2billion, “but in the summary of the Budget by the MDAs, number 41: 0.5.1.8 Personnel costs now have changed to about N539.6billion and overhead, there is N33.5billion now making it that the total recurrent expenditure when you go by the summary by the MDAs has changed to N539billion. I don’t know why that figure was added at that level.

“When you go to Ministry of Finance, the Budget of the Ministry in the recurrent expenditure in part C is N10.8billion, however, there is also an error when you go to the summary, which is number 21: 2.2.0. personnel is N7.4billion, which is okay.

“But when you go to the overhead, it now becomes N2.26trillion and therefore that has also changed. Now the total which is now personnel and the overhead is now N2.27trillion. That has also changed,“ he said.

Scrutinising the Budget further, the lawmaker noted that, “In the Ministry of Budget and Planning, in the part C is N9.3billion, however, when you go to the summary by MDAs, which is number 28: 0.2.3.8 Personnel in the Ministry of Budget and Planning has now become N66.21billion.

“Then overhead also changed there; it has now N832.2billion. Then the total, which is Personnel and overhead in that aspect has now become N1.49trillion.

“The capital also has changed to about N655.9trillion, now giving us a total allocation of the Ministry of Budget and Planning, instead of N9.3bn has now become N2.15trillion.

“Also, on the capital, which is D aspect, page 118 appeared only as ‘Federation’.

“We don’t have any MDA called Federation, however, when I continued with the research, I realised that in that Federation there is a capital component of N31.8billion.

“But when I continued to search, I realised that Federation, I found it in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), so why did they write Federation?,” he queried.

Addressing the matter, the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, said that relevant Committees should liase with the Budget Office to correct the errors.

He said, “even though it is apparent on the surface of the Budget that there were so many irreconcilable differences in the figures allotted, basically we are discussing the general principles of the Budget by virtue of the provisions of our rules at this time.

“So, we would talk about general principles at this time.

“I am sure we are not concluding the debate today. I will direct relevant Committee Chairmen to liaise with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning, to ensure that by tomorrow, before we conclude the debate on the Budget, to make sure that we have the reconciled figures.

“So, for today, I want to admonish and plead with us to make sure that we confine ourselves to the general principles of the Budget.

“I am by this announcement drawing the attention of the Ministry of Budget and Planning and Finance to the irreconcilable differences in the figures allotted in the Budget and unfailingly, by tomorrow, if we must continue the debate on the Budget, they must give us reconciled figures,“ Dogara said.

He also maintained that the debate should continue on the general principles of the Budget, while an error-free Budget would be presented on Thursday.

Similarly, Deputy Speaker, Lasun Yussuff, submitted that, “We are not what we think we are as a nation.

“We can deduct it from the figure the Executive arm of government has always sent to us. We think we are a rich country but from the figures, we are very poor.

“The 2019 Budget says the proposal is N8.7trillion of which if we do a direct conversion that is just merely 28.5billion dollars. What does that mean?

“It means the totality of the Nigerian Budget for 2019 is just 29 billion dollars. Apple alone declares a profit of almost 100billion dollars after tax.

The debate on the Appropriation Bill had earlier commenced with just 43 members seated at plenary.

Shortly after the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had moved the motion for the commencement of the debate, a member, Rita Orji (PDP-Lagos), raised a point of order, noting that the House did not form the required one-third quorum.

The lawmaker’s protest was nullified by Dogara, who said that she was not in the position to determine the quorum of the House.

Responding to Orji’s protest, Dogara said: “You are not the keeper of the register, so you cannot determine quorum. This is politics time, some members come around to sign the register and leave.

“You don’t keep the register, so you cannot draw my attention to the issue of quorum.”

By this position, the debate of the Budget was already under way as additional five lawmakers had joined the plenary.

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