By HENRY UMORU & INALEGWU SHAIBU

 


ABUJA—THE Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stormed the Senate yesterday to defend implementation of 2012 budget and insisted that the Ministry of Finance has released every kobo to Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs, as at when due maintaining that 56 per cent has been used as cash back.She explained that N1.6 trillion has so far been released for recurrent, N404 billion released for Capital project and N324 billion as cash back-up so far used by the MDAs representing 56 percent.

OKONJO-Iweala in SENATE—From Left, Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama , with the Minister of Finance , Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriation, and Finance interactive session on the implementation of 2012 budget at the National Assembly Abuja, yesterday. Photo: Gbemiga Olamikan.

The Finance Minister who also said the 2013 budget will be sent to the Senate for deliberation by President Goodluck Jonathan in September, however kicked against the present situation of budgetary year ending in March, arguing that it was not good budgetary practice. She advised that the government should stop it and revert to January to December if the country must get it right

Nigeria not broke

The minister who appeared before the Senate Joint Committees on Appropriation, Finance, Public Accounts, National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation on the implementation of the 2012 budget, disclosed that the execution of the 2012 appropriation Act stands at 41.3 percent, just as 44 percent resources released so far has not been used by the MDAs, adding that from April to July, N1.3 trillion has been appropriated for capital, and N1.6 trillion as recurrent.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala explained that implementation of the 2012 budget was only four months since it came into effect in April, adding that she had been misquoted severally in the media over the 56 percent implementation level recorded so far.

She explained that in terms of execution of the 2012 budget, N446 billion would have been released, but N404 billion was released from April to July and out of that, N184 billion has been utilized, noting that, “As at now, 44 percent is still available for MDAs to use. The money is there with the CBN to be accessed.”

The Minister who also told the Senators that there was no problem with constituency projects and no grand design against the projects by the Federal Government, however exonerated the National Assembly from impeding the Executive from implementing the 2012 budget.

Giving a breakdown of the level of implementation of the budget, Dr. Okonjo- Iweala explained that out of the N1.3 trillion capital expenditure that was appropriated, “we’ve released all the funds we have for capital. Debt servicing has been done, to the tune of N289 billion, N156 billion has been released for statutory transfers while N163 billion has been released for overheads.

“There is no issue with the N1.6 trillion recurrent expenditure. In four months, N404 billion has been released and we have cash-backed N324 billion (made available to the MDAs).”

It will be recalled that the Minister failed to appear before the Senators on Tuesday as scheduled which angered the Senators who turned back from the scheduled public hearing attended by government delegation led by former Senate President and present Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.

The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu had directed the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Senator Ahmed Maccido, to issue a warrant of arrest if the Minister of Finance failed to appear yesterday.

The Minister also appeared yesterday with the Minister of State, Finance, Dr. Yerima Lawan Ngama, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Accountant General of the Federation, AGF; Auditor-General of the Federation, Director-General, Budget Office, among others, but she answered all the questions raised by Senators from 1.41 to 4.15 pm

Misqouted in the media

According to her, “On the issue of numbers, there have been conflicting information, the first thing to note is that this budget implementation started in April, meaning we have implemented it just for four months. In talking about what we have done, we talk about utilisation of resources, what has been released and what has been used from what has been released

“So far, we have used 56 per cent of the amount cash backed, meaning there is 44 per cent remaining which and we are working hard to ensure the remaining 44 per cent is utilised. We have a proper management of the resources, we have released all the money available, Central Bank is our banker and if CBN is here, they would have testified that no money is withheld. 44 per cent of what was released is yet to be used. What we are now doing is to focus on the utilisation of the remaining resources. In two week’s time, the third quarter release would be out.

“I understand that the National Assembly has been looking at various other ratios with regards to budget performance. We should look at the best way that describe the situation we are in. Of the budget appropriated, what is the implementation so far, that is one way National Assembly has been looking at it.

“We should have released N446billion but we released N404billion between April and now, while we have utilised N184billion and that is 41 per cent. I feel we are on the same page but I am interested in letting Nigerians know how their money has been used.’’

We ‘ll not be scapegoat for others — Senate

Earlier in his remarks while declaring open the Public Hearing, Senate President David Mark who noted that the meeting was not a family one but a market meeting where the truth must be told to one another, stressed that the Senate has been working closely with the Executive, but the National Assembly must not be pushed to a position where it will be forced to invoke its constitutional powers.

Represented by the Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Senate President said, “We will not accept responsibility for the failure of others. While we are willing to take whipping from Nigerians, we won’t be scapegoat for anybody.”

The Finance Minister who started her defence at 1.41 pm, told the Senators that she holds them in very high esteem and her non-appearance on Tuesday was due to communication gap, and apologized to the lawmakers, saying that there was an earlier agreement with Senator Ekweremadu to appear before the committee on an agreed date which according to her, she probably miscalculated.

According to the Minister, ‘’I want to say two things, there is no difference between what the Senate and the president want to do. The president has been insistent on the need for full implementation of the budget and that results are achieved. As a result, he has been holding meetings on the use of resources so that Nigerians can get what they are looking for.”

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who accused a section of the media of misleading the people of the country, said, “We have been open and transparent on the figures we have. I want to say that when I read papers, I am amazed with some figures, some section of the media has been misinforming.

“We sent out a press release, detailing all what has been done regarding the use of resources but even with written comments, it has been twisted, thereby leading to mis-information, I appreciate this opportunity to dialogue”.

Answering question on constituency projects, the Minister explained, that “we have no problems with that, the projects are there, neither the president nor any one has said that. Ministers have launched these projects and they are on it, it takes some time to understand the whole process. We absolutely have no problem with these. What is happening now is that ministers are pursuing procurement process on those projects. For many of the new projects, there is a need for design.”

FG has no problem with constituency projects

On the budget being tampered with, the Minister explained, ‘’on the 2012 budget we have full collaboration with National Assembly. We worked together and came to a reasonable budget, but there are one or two challenges inside which we have been working very collaboratively to solve, and that is that for certain projects and programmes of some MDAs. There were resources that were moved from some areas to others making it a little bit difficult to implement with that movement. This has nothing to do with constituency projects,  they will be implemented as they are being designed.

According to her, ‘’N1.3 trillion was appropriated for capital project outside of the SURE-Programme, but if you add SURE-P to it, you get N1.5 trillion. If you pro-rate that amount month by month, because budget execution is supposed to take place month by month, you get a figure of N113 billion each month.

If you want to measure it over the entire year, that means measuring it over 12 months, you get a figure of 13.7 percent. But we have been implementing for four months and we have been releasing like that because our money comes in every month, not in bulk.

“We made sure salaries have been paid, personnel costs and pension of N971bn have been released, statutory transfers (about N156bn) have been done, debt servicing has been done, overheads of about N163bn has been released. So, about N1.6 trillion has been released for recurrent expenditure.”

 

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