National Assembly shifts budget passage to next week
• Lawmakers blame delay on data integration • House clarifies alleged N10.6b uncaptured expenditure
In the face of growing uncertainty over the fate of the 2016 budget proposal, the National Assembly has again raised a fresh hope that the appropriation bill may be passed next week.
This time, the Assembly is hoping that the data cleansing and consolidation work being conducted on the bill would have been completed next week to make way for the submission of the document and its subsequent passage.
The appropriation committees of both chambers of the National Assembly expected to lay the report on the budget bill failed to do so despite several promises to that effect.
At a joint press conference by spokesmen to the Senate and House of Representatives, AliuSaabiAbdullahi and Abdul RazaqNamdas, at the National Assembly yesterday, it was revealed that the need to do thorough data integration, data consolidation and data cleansing on the budget report was the new reason for the delay in passing the budget.
In another development, the authorities of the National Assembly yesterday said they had since last September submitted relevant documents to buttress the N10.6 billion allegedly expended by the parliament without vouchers.
The two chambers were indicted in the 2014 report recently released by the Auditor General of the Federation (AG), Samuel Ukura.
The hint was contained in a report to the AG, a clarification that came hours after the management of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) refuted claims of owing N3.2 trillion.
Speaking, a member of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Kehinde Odeneye (APC-Ogun), yesterday said the audit report “is not an indictment to the extent that they stole but that they did not respond on time to the Auditor General’s queries.”
The lawmaker noted that a recent proposed legislation, which seeks to grant the office of the Auditor General of the Federation the financial autonomy and first line charge, was to cure the “systematic problem which made MDAs to ignore the office of the Auditor General.”
Abdullahi explained that the National Assembly failed to meet its target this week because it was committed to passing a budget that would be implementable.
He said:”You will recall we promised Nigerians that by today March, 17 we will be able to pass the 2016 appropriation.
Yesterday, I also confirmed to you that today, that same appropriation bill will be laid, barring any last minute technical hitches or otherwise.
“We are here to let you know that as of today, we are unable to lay the 2016 appropriation bill and thus we are hoping next week that process will be completed.
I recall that when I briefed you, you were asking if the passage will be completed by next week and we said ‘Yes’, when you lay the budget the next thing is for you to discuss it and get it passed. The two activities will be carried out next week God willing”
Abdullahi continued:”And let me pre-empt you because I know you will be saying perhaps we have failed to keep our promise. As far as we are concerned, we have not failed.What is happening is a demonstration of the seriousness with which we take the 2016 appropriation.
“It’s such that we cannot also afford to make errors that will become very costly to this nation. We have finished all necessary work within the context of the various committees.
But remember when you do the paper work, you have to also get people who will sit down and check what we call data cleansing and integration; that is ,the two appropriation committees must integrate. That is the essence of what you call harmonisation. This is something very technical and tedious and if you recall, this is a very voluminous document.
“So, in our own understanding, we don’t want to rush just because we want to keep to a promise that today that budget must be passed. What we owe to Nigerians is a budget that is implementable; a budget that will kick-start the revival of our national economy. It’s a budget that will help to create jobs and therefore stimulate our economic rebirth. So, that is what we have seen as a key objective and I want to assure you that for those of you who know statistics, in everything you do, you must give freedom for degree of error.
“Plus or minus five is the basic standard that I’m aware of and within this context, if next week, we will be able to take this, then within that margin of error, the National Assembly is still on course”
Abdullahi further said the data integration and consolidation work was highly technical and tedious adding that it was not an exercise that could be rushed.
He had assured Nigerians on Wednesday that the National Assembly would not just rubber-stamp the budget proposal as submitted by the President.
He said: “We are not a rubber stamp. And so, the document coming from the Executive must go through proper scrutiny. And we are praying and hoping that by next week, we will be able to complete it.”
Meanwhile, a member of the House of Representatives, Temitope Olatoye, has disclosed of intention to pass the Disability Bill soon.
The federal lawmaker made the disclosure yesterday in Ibadan, Oyo State while declaring open a one-day day workshop on “Covering and Reporting Persons With Disabilities” organised by the state’s Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the state capital.