The Senate has disclosed that thirty-eight statutory Ministries, Departments and Agencies are yet to submit their budget proposals for the 2017 fiscal year.
These agencies, which include the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), have continued to make huge extra-budgetary expenditure in breach of the Fiscal Responsibility (FRA) Act 2007. This was disclosed by the Senate yesterday during a legislative session.
Section 21 of the law makes it mandatory for all departments and agencies of the government to submit their expenditure plans to the National Assembly for approval.
The worry of the Senate is that with five months already into the financial year in question, the lack of submission and defence of budget proposals may lead to corruption in the agencies.
The agencies were supposed to have submitted their estimates to the finance minister who would attach the same to the national budget for presentation by the President to the National Assembly. The exercise held last December.
Section 21 (1) of the FRA Act reads:” The government corporations and agencies and government-owned companies listed in the schedule to this Act (in this Act referred to as ‘the corporations’) shall, not later than six months from the commencement of this Act and for every three financial years thereafter and not later than the end of the second quarter of every year, cause to be prepared and submitted to the minister their schedule estimates of revenue and expenditure for the next three financial years.”
Subsection 2 notes: “Each of the bodies referred to in subsection (1) of this section shall submit to the minister not later than the end of August in each financial year: (a) an annual budget derived from the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section; and (b) projected operating surplus which shall be prepared in line with acceptable accounting practices.”
Sub section 3 adds: “The minister shall cause the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (2) to be attached as part of the draft Appropriation Bill to be submitted to the National Assembly.”
Adopting an observation by Deputy Majority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah during plenary, the chamber flayed the high-handedness of some officials of government which tends to undermine the anti-corruption fight of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The lawmakers, thereafter, resolved that a proper debate be carried out on the matter today to determine their extent of alleged constitutional infractions.
The chamber warned that it would not tolerate any form of compromise in the name of strengthening ties with the executive arm of government to curb graft in the system.
The Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, submitted that the flagrant disrespect for existing laws guiding expenditure by the agencies was weakening the fight against corruption.
His words: “This is a very serious issue because as we all know, in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, these things are meant to have been submitted since August and should have come with the 2017 appropriation document. We have now passed it and no report. I think this matter really needs to come as a motion.”
Na’Allah had noted: “I am the one responsible for the collation of reports and we have not received one single report regarding the budgets of these parastatals which were supposed to have been given by September. I want to put it on record. We have not received any report. I don’t know whether the chairmen have received.”
The chamber named the other agencies affected as the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASEI) and Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA).
Others are the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), National Maritime Authority (NMA), Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), National Sugar Development Council (NSDC), Nigerian Postal Service (NPS), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
The list also includes the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), National Communications Commission (NCC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Also allegedly culpable are National Insurance Commission (NIC), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Nigerian Copyrights Commission (NCC), Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Radio Nigeria, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC).
The rest are Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA), National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) as well as the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGZFA). But an official of the OGZFA said yesterday the Senate was not referring to the defence of a regular budget for an agency which it had done . He added that the chamber was referring to internally generated revenue and that it was ready to defend its own.
However, efforts to reach the apex bank’s spokesman, Isaac Okorafor, were unsuccessful. But Section 6 (3) (a) of the CBN Act 2007 vested the approval of the organisation’s yearly budgets on its board.
But the NNPC refuted the claim in a statement by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu. The corporation maintained that it submitted and had defended the proposals too.
Also yesterday, an economist, Professor Ademola Ariyo, linked budgeting to the country’s economic woes.
The University of Ibadan don made the assertion at the maiden public lecture of the Faculty of Management Sciences, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Lagos.