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Again, Senate Postpones Passage Of 2016 Budget

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The 2016 Budget report is to be laid by the Senate/House Joint Committee on Appropriation before the House today (Thursday). This revelation was made after the Committee failed to lay the report yesterday (Wednesday).

March 17 was set as the new date after futile efforts to pass the budget on February 25, 2016. Continuous effort by the National Assembly to pass the N6.08 trillion 2016 budget has been frustrated by budget padding, anomalies and “regularities/irregularities”.

One of such was the detection of the reoccurrence of funds allocated for procurement and installation of security systems every year since 2013 in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

Budgetary precedence show that, in 2013, the sum of N527,000,000 was budgeted for the item; in 2014, N1,161,356,582 was allocated to the same item; in 2015, N316,420,274 was budgeted for it; and N1,710,322,610 is to be spent on the procurement and installation of security system in the SGF office in 2016.

The committee also detected items without project locations in the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing (headquarters).

Such projects include the construction of a block of three classrooms at the cost of N85,592,483; construction of a maternity centre for N91,124,858; and the allocation of N172,623,767 for the building of skill acquisition centres.

The committee noted that oversight function would not be possible without project locations.

Further discoveries made by the committee shows anomalies in the allocation of large amounts of money for the rehabilitation and repair of office buildings as well as purchase of office items and fittings, N21bn for Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government.

The committee also detected massive duplication of items. For example, N2.3bn was allocated for former heads of state in the service wide vote of the Ministry of Budget and Planning, while N400,190,000 was apportioned for the affairs of the former heads of state in the SGF office.

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Other examples of duplication include allocation of N256,920,000 for the purchase of equipment, vehicles and furniture for the National Bureau of Statistics and the N230,705,000 by the NBS for the same purpose.

When contacted, the Senate spokesperson, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said the errors had been corrected at the committee stage.

He said that there were no fresh errors and challenged anyone with contrary information to publish the source.

Abdullahi said, “The errors in the budget were identified at the various committee levels. The Appropriation committees of both chambers had jointly scrutinized the document and had come up with an error-free copy.

“As a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, I can confirm to you that I am not aware of any fresh error discovered after the joint committee of the two chambers had worked on the budget.

“I challenge anyone with contrary information to publish it together with the source.”

Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, however told reporters in Abuja that the 2016 budget will be laid today.

Abdullahi who is also a member of the Appropriation Committee, noted that after laying the budget, what would remain would be merely administrative work.

Anxiety mounted Wednesday following the failure of the Appropriation Committee to lay the budget as promised before Senate adjourned.

“We are laying the budget tomorrow; that means that every little work that needed to be done with respect to getting that budget as an appropriation has been done. Literally passing the budget tomorrow means that beyond laying it we will discuss it, by taking it clause by clause and give it the loud voice that would proclaim its passage.

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“The rest after laying the budget is merely administrative. As far as we are concerned, in line with the legislative procedure, by laying the budget tomorrow, it is as good as we have passed the budget.

“What remains is for us to go through one or two things as a procedure. We have done very well by ensuring that the budget would be laid tomorrow. There are lots of back and fore with respect to the budget.

“We are not unmindful about the date set for the passage, but we want to give Nigerians a budget that is acceptable, implementable, and that will actually drive the key policies of this government with respect to the change agenda.

“For the budget to be laid tomorrow, that means that there is concurrence; all members of the appropriation committee are satisfied, everybody that has a responsibility.

“Every member of the committee has appended his signature on the budget and by tomorrow when the budget is laid, Nigerians will know that we have done well.”

Also alluding to the fact that the budget will no longer be passed today as scheduled, Senate Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume informed that the budget would be passed on Tuesday March 22, 2016.

Ndume also said that a clean copy of the budget would be transmitted to President Buhari on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

It is expected that after laying it, Senators would be given copies of the fiscal document to read in detail before its possible passage on March 22, 2016.