Presidency, NASS in secret deal to harmonise 2016 budget

Budget1

• Govt won’t withdraw, cut fiscal plan
• Ministers to send adjusted figures to lawmakers
A SECRET deal to correct the anomalies associated with the N6.077 trillion 2016 budget may have been reached between the National Assembly and Federal Executive Council (FEC) members The Guardian has learnt .

Under the arrangement, ministers dissatisfied with the distribution of figures within their ministries are to send to the National Assembly the distributions as they prefer them without exceeding the amounts allocated to the various ministries, departments, and agencies under them.

It was learnt that based on that arrangement, the executive arm may no longer have to withdraw the budget and re-write it.
“Since the power of appropriation actually lies with the National Assembly after it receiving the Appropriation Bill from the president, what has been agreed on is that the ministers will bring the figures they proposed for their various sub-heads and the lawmakers will appropriate duly without shifting grounds too far from the zero budgeting thrust of the new administration,” a source said yesterday.

“The total figure for the budget will not change; the amount allocated to ministries and departments will not change, but the distribution within various sub-heads will change to satisfy the ministers who have complained that their figures were jumbled up and did not represent what they proposed,” the source added.

Last week, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, had told The Guardian that the issues surrounding the budget confusion were being worked out, though he did not give details.

Allusions to the secret deal between the executive and legislature were made by Senate leader, Ali Ndume, at the weekend when he disclosed that the Senate had not postponed the passage of the Appropriation Bill indefinitely.
“We are saying that with the developments we are seeing, the February 25 deadline may not be realistic.
“That is why we now said that going by this, it is not possible to say we will come back on February 25 and say this is the budget; we are not saying that we have suspended it indefinitely.
“The reason we fixed February 25 was because we wanted to have a gap of five weeks,” he had said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

He added that the leadership of the National Assembly met with ministers to iron out grey areas and make corrections to the contentious areas.

Last Wednesday, Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed joined the list of ministers who disputed the figures credited to their ministries.

He told the Senate Committee on information at a budget defence session that the N398 million proposed in the budget for the purchase of computers was strange to him.

In reaction to questions regarding the N230 million and N168 million voted for the purchase of computers for the NAN and the Film and Video Censors Board, the minister said:”No, that is not possible. That was definitely not what was proposed, this cannot be.”

When an official of the ministry noted that N5million was what was proposed for the item in the original budget of the NFVCB, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe said: “The difference between N5million and N168m is huge.”

Last week Monday, Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had told senators that the provisions of the budget before the National Assembly were in contrast with the priorities of the health sector as contained in the original budget it prepared, adding that some of the votes earmarked by the ministry for some activities had been re-distributed while some important fields in the sector had been excluded.

He had said: “In the revised budget as re-submitted, N15.7 billion for capital allocation has been moved to other areas.
“Some allocations made are not in line with our priorities. There is nothing allocated to Public Health and Family Health. Over the last two years, nothing has been done on HIV…

“We have to look into the details of the budget and re-submit it to the committee. This was not what we submitted. We ‘ll submit another one. We don’t want anything foreign to creep into that budget. What we submitted is not there. We have not reached that stage and we find the money there.”

Many other ministers and heads of federal agencies were also said to have complained about how their budgets were messed up by those who sent the figures to the National Assembly.

Presidency sources had two weeks ago blamed the budget mess on civil servants, adding that some top civil servants might suffer for it.

A minister confirmed the same to The Guardian, but noted that the time was not ripe for action. He hinted that heads would roll only after the budget mess had been cleared .

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