Senate

Senate lists conditions for 2018 budget

The Senate on Thursday set conditions for the 2018 budget.

The Upper Chamber approved that if Nigeria would have a January to December budget cycle in 2018, the Federal Government must not roll over 60 percent of capital projects in the 2017 budget as being proposed.

This formed part of the discussion when its Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance met on Tuesday with the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; and Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, on the implementation of the 2017 Appropriation Act.

The Senate also warned the Executive against the selective implementation of projects “under the guise of completing priority projects.”

The committee said, “The Executive claimed it is awaiting the resolution of the National Assembly on external borrowing to enable them borrow externally to finance part of the capital component of the budget. This is because external debts have

“This is because external debts have longer tenures and lower interest rate,” this was part of its finding.

The panel said it was also observed that the Executive had decided to focus on completion of priority projects that were near completion instead of implementing the budget as passed.

Another observation by the panel was that efforts were being made to have the 2018 budget proposal laid before the National Assembly in October 2017, with the hope that the National Assembly would pass it in December for implementation to commence January 2018.

Some of the other observations were that “60 percent of the capital component of the 2017 budget may be rolled over to 2018, with the expectation that it will commence in January 2018.

“The shortfall in personnel costs of some agencies are as a result of either error in the budget or unapproved employment of staff. This is being investigated by the Executive with a view to addressing the problem.

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“There are revenue leakages of operating surpluses that Agencies are not remitting to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

The lawmaker, however, stepped down the first recommendation in the report, which read, “The committee wishes to recommend that the issue of external borrowing be resolved with the executive without further delay.”

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, stated there was no pending request for external borrowing with the chamber.

He said, “Let me also clarify this because I was involved by the Chairman of Appropriations; that when the Minister of Finance came, she suggested that there were some requests before us on external borrowing.

“I just want to make it clear that there is no request on external borrowing that has not been acted upon. It must be that the letters have not left the Executive to come to us.

“I think it is important that we don’t delay such an important issue. If you remember, at the end of the last session – on the last day, we treated requests from the states and those on the railways.

“There are no pending requests from Mr. President or, when he was away, from the Acting President on external loan.”

The Senate, however, approved other recommendations, including that “necessary steps be taken to ensure that the Executive does not embark on selective implementation under the guise of completing priority projects because it will offend the spirit of the Appropriation Act.”

Others read, “Much as there is the need to work with the Executive to return to a predictable January-December budget cycle, this should be done without sacrificing up to 60 percent of a full year capital budget in one full-swoop.

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“The 2018 budget proposal (should) be passed expeditiously when brought to the National Assembly to allow for full implementation.

“We encourage the Executive to ensure that all MDAs are properly captured in IPPIS and all employments are properly approved and budgeted for.

“The use of operating surplus of Internally Generated Revenue of government-owned enterprises like the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Nigerian Ports Authority and others in funding the national budget should be properly explored.”

The Senate also approved that the Executive should be encouraged to block all leakages of operational surpluses of MDAs.

In his closing remarks, Saraki expressed fears over the proposal by the Federal Government to roll over about 50 percent of the capital projects for 2016 to 2018.

He said, “On the points that have been raised, the key point is to ensure that the Executive does carry out a level of implementation in line with what we proposed and then, they should address the issue of operational surpluses.

“The Executive should also fast track, if they have any requests at all, external borrowing and they should not adopt selective implementation.

“My only concern, which I think the Appropriations Committee needs to look at, is that if we are saying that we are going to do only 50 percent implementation of capital, that means that for next year, we are talking about a N10tn budget. Where is the capacity to implementation

“Where is the capacity to implement that?” Daily post.

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