BUDGETING: Radical changes underway in N’Assembly

BUDGETING: Radical changes underway in N'Assembly

Both chambers of the National Assembly are proposing some changes to budgeting in Nigeria, which may be passed into law before end of the year, and which they say would strengthen the budgeting process in the country.

Director-General of National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), Professor Ladi Hamalai, in a paper, presented on Wednesday, at a one-day training organised by the institute for journalists covering the National Assembly, said a report detailing the recommendations which will form part of the proposed Budget Reforms Bill, is already before the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.

She said the country does not have a legal framework guiding budget processes in Nigeria. The NILS boss specifically noted that unlike in other climes, Nigeria does not have a constitutional time frame within which the President will present a budget before a joint session of the National Assembly.

Professor Hamalai also faulted the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). According to her, the document which is presented yearly to both chambers of the National Assembly, ahead of the presentation of the budget, should be modified to conform with the economic blueprint of the Federal Government.

Part of the proposals mulled by the National Assembly will be to repeal and re-enact the 1958 Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) to check the anomalies in relation to the fiscal year. Part of the proposals is to also amend the FRA, to enlarge the list of stakeholders to be consulted during the budget preparation process, as well as pre-budget consultation between the National Assembly, the executive and the public.

Also to be considered is the enactment of an organic budget law that puts together all laws relating to the budget, including a fixed and realistic budget calendar and a pre- budget statement.

The National Assembly will also strengthen legislative oversight functions in order to minimise the negative perception of the public on oversight performance.

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Similarly, the National Assembly may also pass a bill to give a legal backing to the setting up of a Budget and Research Office.

Other changes expected to be effected include strengthening of relevant committees to have competent budget analysts, research and legal officers, as well as adequate secretariat resources.

Speaking on the country’s budgeting system, Professor Hamalai, said politicians deliberately opt for options that will meet their political needs.

She said: “Nigeria budgeting process is a political instrument. Resources are allocated, not on the basis of need, but on the basis of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

“No politician can do budgeting based on needs. They make budgets that can be shared. These are some of the leakages in our budgeting processes.

“In this year’s budget for instance, we budgeted N7 trillion, whereas, on revenue projections, it is only about N3 trillion. Out of this money, government will end up spending only what is available to it. This is not done in many developed countries, even in Africa.”
By Ehisuan Odia….

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