National Assembly Padded 2016 Budget With N481bn - Vanguard


IMAGE

ABUJA—Despite strident denials
by top officials of the National
Assembly, it has been
discovered that the legislators
padded the 2016 budget to the
tune of N481 billion. Documents obtained by
Vanguard showed that apart
from padding the budget with
the huge sum, forcing the
Presidency to raise alarm over it,
NASS also unilaterally jerked the votes meant for constituency
projects from N60 billion to
N100 billion.
But the Chairman of the House of
Representatives Committee on
Appropriation, Abdul Jibrin, who was fired last week, had said the
Speaker allowed 10 committee
chairmen to insert projects
worth N284 billion and washed
his hands off the illegal action.
The House leadership, however, said Jubrin was fired for fixing
the budget, a development he
vehemently denied.
Vanguard found out from the
document exclusively obtained
from the National Assembly that the lawmakers ingeniously
removed some key projects
proposed by the executive or
drastically reduced their costs
and introduced many others not
contemplated by the Presidency which prepared the budget.
Among the projects which votes
were surreptitiously jerked up
without the knowledge of the
executive, were Nigerian railway
modernization project: Lagos – Kano standard gauge rail line
project, which cost was raised by
N32.5 billion and the
consultancy dredging and river
training works (N609 million)
under the Ministry of Transportation.
Others, according to the
document, are the Code of
Conduct Bureau which had
N4.4billion added to its vote,
provision of broadband Internet Service to National Assembly by
Nigcomsat, N318 million,
Training and Consultancy for
Nigcomsat 2 Project, N3.5 billion
etc, in the Ministry of
Communications. Most scandalous, according to
the document, is the case of
Ministry of Works, Power and
Housing where 82 new projects,
principally roads, with a total
provision of about N50.63 billion, were inserted in the
budget.
The Presidency, which reviewed
the budget, said: “A large
number of these projects are
outside the mandate of the relevant Ministry (e.g. the
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development, and the Ministry of
Works, Power & Housing); or
statutorily outside the FGN’s
mandate (like intra-city and state road projects); or cannot be
implemented as there are no
designs or costings made for
them.
“The amounts proposed for
some MDAs’ projects were increased significantly without
due consultations on
implementation capacity or
additional financing needs for
the projects.
This amounts to tying down resources that could have been
applied to more impactful
projects in other areas.
“In addition, hundreds of new
projects that have no
relationship to the MDA’s were introduced and simply cannot be
implemented. Among these are
the construction of town halls,
township street lights,
procurement of transformers
and tricycles under the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing
and the building of classrooms
under the Ministry of Agriculture
etc,” the document revealed.
Also, the executive proposal of
N4.06 billion for the provision for test kits, vaccines and anti-
retroviral drugs under the
Federal Ministry of Health was
reduced to N1.01 billion.
“As a result of this reduction,
there shall be vaccines stock-out by October 2016 and, among
other things, the gains of polio
eradication will be lost, and the
government will be hampered in
the battle against HIV.
“Very large cuts have been made to proposals for many
important projects in several
MDAs and the sums applied to
fund hundreds of new projects.
“The Bill (2016 budget) cannot
be implemented in its current form because some of the
figures in the Bill passed do not
correspond with the figures in
the budget details
accompanying the Bill.
“The aggregate expenditure as contained in the budget details
as passed, is higher than that in
the Appropriation Bill by about
N481 billion, compared to the
Appropriation Bill.
“The executive made provision for the sum of N60 billion to be
used by members of the National
Assembly in funding their
constituency projects. This was
increased by the National
Assembly to N100 billion. “It is, therefore, unclear why, in
spite of this increase, the
National Assembly felt it
necessary to divert funds from
line Ministries for their
constituency projects, having already provided for same in the
Service Wide votes.
“The amounts allocated to a
number of important projects in
a number of key ministries have
been so reduced that they cannot be implemented. The
savings from these reductions
have been re-allocated to
hundreds of new projects which
have not been designed or
costed and so cannot be implemented.
Giving specific details of the
projects, which votes were
slashed and the fund moved to
other extraneous ones, the
document revealed that some key allocations for programmes/
projects under the Service-Wide
Votes, SWV, were either reduced
or removed outright, pointing
out the dangers posed by such
decisions. For instance, the provision of N3
billion for adjustment to capital
cost was removed, while the
provision for “capital exigency”
was reduced by about 56% from
N12.5 billion to N5.5 billion. The executive fears the reduction
may affect the ability to meet any
unforeseen capital expenditure.
The provision for pensions &
gratuity was reduced by about
N12.06 billion, while that for Public Service Wage Adjustment,
PSWA, was reduced by N14
billion.
Among others, allocations to the
health sector for outstanding
payments to health professionals (by N2bn),
Internal Operations for the
Armed Forces (by N3bn), and
Operation Lafiya Dole (by N2bn)
were also reduced. These
reductions could potentially trigger industrial actions or
pensioners’ protests and
constrain the ongoing security
operations in the North-East
during the fiscal year, if not
remedied. The emergence of the document
seems to have put paid to the
claim by the NASS that it did not
pad the budget, a claim
dismissed by Jibrin.
Jibrin had said: “When the budget harmonization
committee headed by Deputy
Speaker Yusuf Lasun gave out
80% concession across board to
the executive demands during
the harmonization negotiation, it was agreed that the remaining
20% should go to the entire
NASS. The deputy speaker
excused himself that he wanted
to go and consult with Mr
Speaker. “He came back after a few hours
and in an unprecedented display
of greed, presented to me a
hand written note distributing
the remaining 20% to only
principal officers. 70% of the 20% was reserved for Mr
Speaker and himself while the
remaining 30% of the 20% goes
to other principal officers.”
How Jibrin changed 2016
budget —Reps Meamwhile, the House of
Representatives, yesterday,
alleged that Jibrin, single
handedly changed the budget
estimates presented by President
Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly by adding
N250 billion into it.
The House also accused the
embattled former
Appropriations Chairman of
deliberate plot to blackmail the President during the budget
process by inserting funds for
the so called Muhammadu
Buhari Film Village in his
constituency in Kano State
without the consent or solicitation of the President.
This is as the Chairman, House
Committee on Health Services,
Chike John Okafor, accused the
embattled former appropriations
committee chairman of tampering with the health
budget by allegedly putting for
himself N500 million health
project in his constituency
without the consent of the
committee. Briefing journalists in Abuja,
Chairman, House Committee on
Media and Public Affairs,
Abdulrazak Namdas,
accompanied by other
committee members, explained that Jibrin was removed as a
result of credibility problem he
had brought to the House in
particular and National Assembly
as a whole.
He said: “His removal was based on sundry acts of misconduct,
incompetence, total disregard
for his colleagues and abuse of
the budgetary process,
Immaturity and lack of capacity
to handle the Office of Chairman, Appropriations.” Jibrin makes
U-turn, demands police
protection Meantime, Jibrin, who disclosed
at the weekend that Nigerian
Police operatives were laying
siege to his Abuja residence with
a view to arresting him over
budget padding revelations, has made a U-turn and is requesting
police protection.
Vanguard gathered last
Thursday, following his removal
as Chairman of the
Appropriation Committee and his threat to reveal dealings
involving alleged padding of the
budget by principal officers of
the House, the Police at Force
headquarters invited him to
depose to a statement about his allegations.
After several invitations,
including telephone
conversations, Jibrin refused to
answer the Police summons but
instead relocated from his home to an unknown place to,
according to him, avoid being
arrested by the Police who
allegedly laid siege to his house.