Senate Raises Buhari’s N180bn Request By N33bn | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Senate Raises Buhari’s N180bn Request By N33bn

Nigeria senate, JAMB
Posted: Nov 30, 2016 at 3:09 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

* To Probe All Revenue Generating Agencies

Rotimi Akinwumi

Abuja – The request for parliamentary approval for a virement of N180 billion in the 2016 budget on Tuesday caused a division among senators along party lines.

However, the upper legislative chamber eventually approved the virement request, with an additional N33 billion added to the initial request by the president.

The amount approved by the Senate is N5 billion higher than the N208 billion approved by the House of Representatives last week.

The increase, according to the Senate, is to cover shortfalls in affected ministries, departments and agencies of government.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 through a letter to the leadership of the National Assembly, asked for an approval of the release of N180 billion from the N500 billion Social Intervention Fund contained in the 2016 budget to fund other essential items on the budget.

Party loyalty crept into the discussion after the presentation was made by the chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje.

After the comment by James Manager, the Deputy Senate President, a PDP member in his contribution, said the issue of the virement was clearly unconstitutional and should be dropped.

“I want to call the attention of this Senate to section 81 sub-section 4 just for our guidance and for the future. Section 81 (4) of the constitution says, ‘If in respect of any financial year, it is found that the amount appropriated by the Appropriation Act for any purpose is insufficient or the need as arisen for expenditure for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by the Act, a supplementary estimate showing the sums required shall be laid before each House of the National Assembly and the needs of any such expenditure shall be included in a supplementary appropriation bill’.

“Your Excellency, distinguished colleagues, we have been going through the issue of virement which is not known in our constitution. It is a military terminology and it is certainly not in our constitution, because when they present this virement nobody makes any reference to any law authorising it.

“What we do is in respect of this constitution, we swear an oath to abide by the provisions of this constitution. Regarding appropriation, we have either the Appropriation Act or the Supplementary Act, there is nothing like virement. For our guidance and the guidance of the executive I propose that going forward that if there is any shortfall or there is need to cover any ground that has not been covered the appropriate thing to do is a supplementary appropriation not a virement because virement is not known to this constitution”.

According to him, the proper thing for the executive to do is to submit a supplementary budget.

However, Abdullahi Adamu, an APC member from Nassarawa State, countered his position, saying it’s not unlawful, but a matter approved by the law.

“Nobody in his senses will doubt or contest the very clear provisions of the constitution with respect to this issue. However, there is a Fiscal Responsibility Act, which in section 24 provides for virement.

“While we accept the intervention and so we don’t want to create the impression to have meant a wrong thing in totality because there is a Fiscal Responsibility Act which is recognised by the constitution.”

Senate President Bukola Saraki also intervened, saying the intervention of the Senate is needed on the issue.

“I think your observation as far as the constitution is well noted. I think we are all fully aware of that and that is why I cannot continue to thank my colleagues so much in the way we have been addressing the issue of the economy and we are not looking at it whichever party we are or whatever side.

“If we stick to the constitution you are very right and it is part of our support and cooperation to the executive, to Nigerians to move things forward. As you rightly said this should come as a supplementary budget but in part of trying to make this move and incorporate it and ensuring that we give the support and the executive should also take note”, Saraki said.

However, the Senate eventually passed the virement proposal.

Specifically, the upper chamber approved the sum of N167.113 billion for recurrent expenditure, N2.500 billion for statutory transfers and N44.28 billion for capital projects.

Breakdown of the expenditure shows that service wide vote: Public Service Wage Adjustment got N71,800,215,270; service wide vote: contingency received N1,200,000,000;  service wide vote: margin for increase in cost, N2,000,000,000; Ministry of Interior: cadet feeding-Police Academy Wudil, Kano got N932,400,000; service wide vote: amnesty programme got N35,000,000,000; service wide vote: internal operations of the armed forces, N5,205,930,270; service wide vote: Operation Lafiya Dole, N13,933,093,000; Ministry of Youth and Sports Development: NYSC got N19,792,018,400; Ministry of Foreign Affairs: foreign missions, N16,349,647,078; Federal Ministry of Education: augmentation of meal subsidy/direct teaching and laboratory cost, N900,000,000 and sustainable development goal, N5 billion.

The committee also recommended that the sum of N300 million appropriated in the 2016 budget under the Transmission Company of Nigeria for the construction of 132KVA substation at Gwaram, Jigawa, be vired for the reconstruction of fallen towers, replacement of glass insulators for Gagarawa, Jigawa (TCN01B021775).

It would be recalled that Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning, had attributed the inability of the executive to submit a supplementary budget to lack of funds.

Meanwhile, all revenue generating agencies of the Federal Government are to undergo thorough probe by the Senate over allegations of underhand dealings.

The agencies are independently and jointly accused of abuse, misuse under remittance/non-remittance and other fraudulent practices in the collection, accounting, remittance and expenditure.

To carry out the all important task, the Senate on Tuesday constituted a six-member ad hoc committee to do the job and report back within six weeks.

The setting up of the committee followed the adoption of a motion tagged ‘Urgent Need to Investigate Revenue Generation Agencies for Non-Remittance of Generated Revenue’ sponsored by Solomon Adeola-Olamilekan.

The commencement of this investigation came barely two weeks after the Federal Government accused revenue generating agencies of siphoning money.

Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance, had last month accused revenue generating agencies of diverting revenues they had generated.

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who named Adeola-Olamilekan as chairman of the ad hoc committee lamented that revenue agencies generated over N1.5 trillion last year, but could only deliver less than N500 billion.

Saraki said: “As I keep on hammering, independent revenue and non-oil revenue are very important areas of our budget. This independent revenue is 37 percent. You remember that last year it was almost N1.5 trillion and I’m being told now that this year is likely to come down to N500 billion because they could not meet the target.

“The inability to meet the target is not that they do not have the capacity to meet the target. The problem is that there is too much abuse on these operating surpluses where people spend up to the last naira in all. I think the best way forward is for us to address this issue in blocking these leakages and I believe that in constituting the ad hoc committee, we would just take the best hands and still bring people from finance and public accounts committees.”

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