- Published on Monday, 30 July 2012 11:04
- Written by Bashir Musa
Press statement from the House of Reps - The House of Representatives will like to restate its concern on the poor and selective implementation of the 2012 budget by the executive arm of government and the attitude of officials
of government saddled with the responsibility of implementing Appropriation Acts.
For the avoidance of doubt, section 6 and 7 of the 2012 Appropriation Act clearly says what officials of government and in this case the Honourable Minister of finance is permitted to do.
Section 6 of the Appropriation Act, 2012, states that: “The minister of Finance shall ensure that funds appropriated under this Act are released to the appropriate agencies and or organs of government as and when due, provided that no funds for any quarter of the fiscal year shall be deferred without prior waiver from the National Assembly”. Mark and note the choice of the word “shall” which is mandatory under the circumstance, not discretionary.
This is what the minister is expected to do. It is not within her powers to pick and choose projects and programmes to fund as has been the case with the Appropriation Act 2012. Her piece meal and discretionary release of funds for projects contrary to the schedule approved in the Appropriation Act is unlawful. She is, in fact, apparently breaking the law.
What the law enjoins the minister to do is ensure that all funds appropriated for projects within a particular quarter are released to all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, as at when due without preference. If the revenue target is not achieved in any particular period, it is the responsibility of the Honourable Minister to seek for waiver from the National Assembly. This has not been the case as the Honourable Minister has not told the nation or the National Assembly that the monies for these projects are not available.
This is not to say that funds should be released and accessed by MDAs without due process and actual execution of projects, that is to say, there should be value for money. How released funds are accessed by the various MDAs is stated in section 7 of the budget Act and further guided by due process law. Section 7 of the 2012 Appropriation Act states as follows: “The department of government charged with the responsibility of certifying that due processes have been complied with in the processing of implementation of projects shall ensure that all processes of approval are completed within the specified period as provided for in the Public Procurement Act”. Again, mark and note the choice of word “shall” and not “will”.
If these processes are not satisfied by the MDAs the monies lapse at the end of the financial year and are returned to the treasury. The Honourable Minister has rather chosen to release funds for the implementation of the budget subject only to her whims and caprices. She has no right to do so.
The House will further like to clarify a few mis-interpretations on the Minister’s recent media briefing on the implementation of the 2012 budget as reported by the media on Thursday July 26, 2012.
First of all, it is not true that the executive arm has implemented as at today 56% of the 2012 budget as widely reported. In truth, less than 30% of the budget has been implemented. What the minister admitted to as can be confirmed from her own words is that, at best government has implemented 56% of the N404 million released to MDAs.
The Minister was clear in saying that of this amount (N404 billion) only N324 billion has so far been cash backed. In order words, it is only N324 billion that is available to the MDAs for implementation of capital projects and programmes of government out of about N1.5 trillion appropriated for all capital expenditure.
The House of Representatives also does not agree with the Honourable Minister that the slow pace of implementation of the 2012 budget is as a result of the constituency projects introduced into the budget by the National Assembly.
For the avoidance of doubt, constituency projects represent less than 10% of the 2012 capital budget. How can this be the reason for the slow implementation of the budget? This excuse for non-implementation falls flat on its face when a review of the performance of the Executive on even its own preferred projects is made. Even more evidential is the fact that releases so far made to the MDAs are not enough to pay for on – going projects or projects chosen by the executive.
For instance, out of a total appropriation of N145 billion for the ministry of works in the budget, only N47 billion has so far been released to the ministry. In the first quarter N38 billion was released and in the second quarter only N9 billion was released, with a shortfall of about N30 billion for the 2nd quarter.
The projects that need these appropriations are core road projects spread all over the country. Or are these inter-state highways and other strategic road projects also constituency Projects? Playing to the gallery by the executive arm will not change the facts of the situation.
It is also important to restate that these constituency projects are managed by the executive arm of government. Members of the National Assembly are not involved in the advertising for the projects, members are not involved in the short listing of contractors for the projects
neither are members involved in the process of the actual award of the contracts.
Furthermore, the idea of the National Assembly distorting the budget is incongruous. The National Assembly cannot distort a budget which it has full powers over. There is no law that says the budget must be returned to the President exactly the way it is forwarded to the National Assembly. They seem to be suffering from military hangover where budgets were announced after a meeting of the Supreme Military Council, SMC. The Federal Executive Council, FEC, is not the equivalent of the SMC. The National Assembly has replaced the SMC. If the Appropriation Act is to be sent back to the Executive the way it is presented, then it is better that the National Assembly is abolished. In a constitutional democracy, in the budgeting process, the National Assembly exercises the constitutional responsibility of taking care of the interests and aspirations of Nigerians from every constituency.
The security, welfare and prosperity of Nigerians has always been and remains uppermost in the consideration of the House of representatives in raising concerns on the slow implementation of the 2012 Appropriation Act.
What is the benefit of annual appropriations if projects enunciated in the budgets are not implemented? For us in the House of Representatives, significant implementation of budgets is our desire. We are not at war with the executive arm on this matter. We shall continue to insist on the implementation of the budget no matter what is being insinuated as the motivating factor for our intervention. The House enjoins the MDAs to continue with the processes of procurement and eventual award of contracts for capital projects in the 2012 Appropriation Act.
Finally, we call on Mr. President, as an elected official who is ultimately accountable to Nigerians, to be careful of the type of advice he gets from his unelected appointees on the issue of the implementation of the budget, as its significant implementation is ultimately in the interest of his presidency.