House Of Reps Tackles President Muhammadu Buhari Over The Level Of Compliance And Execution Of 2015 Appropriation Act
House of Representatives yesterday resolved to setup an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the extent of implementation of the 2015 capital projects as enacted into law in the 2015 Appropriations Act. This resolve emanated from a motion raised as an order of privilege by Hon. Patrick Asadu seeking to investigate the extent to which the 2015 budget had been implemented and its effects on the nation’s economy.
In a motion entitled “Non-Implementation of Capital Projects as Contained in the 2015 Appropriation Act; Federal Government Budget and Serial Breach of the Fiscal Responsibility Act by the Federal Ministry of Finance and Threats To My Effective Representation of My Constituents,” he noted that the 1999 constitution at sections 80 through 83, clearly stipulates how monies belonging to the Federal Republic of Nigeria can be kept and spent and clearly vests in the National Assembly the powers to appropriate monies for expenditure by government.
“By sections 81 and 82 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, the Federal Government expenditures must be either as direct charges on the constitution, as contained in the Appropriation Act or supplementary Appropriation Act, where applicable, or as may be specifically prescribed by the National Assembly, while section 30(1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act clearly mandates the Minister of Finance, through the Budget Office, to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the annual budget, and assess the attainment of fiscal targets and report thereon on a quarterly basis to the Joint Finance Committee of the National Assembly and to also publish same in the mass and electronic media not later than 30 days after the end of each quarter of the financial year.
“There has not been any constitutional amendment adjusting the financial year by the National Assembly nor has any public been made by the Ministry of Finance in any mass and electronic media on the implementation of the budget and attainment of fiscal targets”, he said.
House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, however, challenged the motion saying that the President has a period of three months before information on budget implementation can be made available urging the House to suspend the motion and give the president some time. House minority leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, further challenged Gbajabiamila saying that he should have allowed the sponsor of the motion to advance his argument before seeking leave of the Speaker who would still allocate time for arguments “for” and “against”.
Ogor’s point of order was sustained by the Speaker. He submitted that the motion was in order and in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act as cited by the House Leader. On his part, Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Suleiman Lasun, said the debate has some historical precedents and methods of handling such scenarios.
In Lasun’s argument, the motion may have been under-estimated by members as it goes beyond budget implementation. He said that the motion sought to deal with the entirety of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the scope of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework as well as examining the way budgets have been implemented with regards to releases and project roll-overs from the previous to the present Fiscal year.
The Deputy Speaker explained that budget implementation by the previous PDP-led governments since 2011 had never achieved up to 50percent budget implementation just as he added that budget performance in 2014 was even worse in areas of the capital allocations. He urged members to take a second look at the requirements of the motion and apply the same method adopted by the 7th Assembly where a retreat had to be called for the purpose of studying the scenario of budget implementation to be able to take an informed position.
According to him, if that method was adopted the House would have to take seriously the issues of monitoring and oversight on the level of implementation and compliance. Speaker Dogara intervened saying that the prayer of the motion, if granted, would take care of the modalities necessary for required actions adding that the House has official mechanisms of obtaining necessary information from MDAs without difficulty. The motion however passed amidst controversy it was generating amongst members of the House.
-Dyepkazah Shibayan, Abuja