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Finance Minister clarifies allegations of N424bn budget padding



Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on Monday, appeared before the Senate Committee on Appropriation to clarify the allegations of inserting N424 billion into the 2023 Appropriation Bill.

Ahmed had been accused of inserting N206bn, N8.6bn, N195.468bn and N2.250bn respectively into the budget of Humanitarian, Health, Power and Education ministries.

Speaking before the Committee, Ahmed said various sums were approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) before budget presentation itself by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, October 7, 2022.

The Minister hinted at internal coordination issues between some ministries with their CEOs and accounting officers.

She said: “All the proposed budgetary sums like the N206 billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the N8.6billion in the Ministry of Defence, N195.468 billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power, etc, were all captured before the presentation by Mr President.

READ ALSO:Zainab Ahmed reveals reason Buhari withdrew $35.6m from Excess Crude Account

“Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of agencies selected for project execution for the sole purpose of transparency. The totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771 trillion.

“Had heads of the affected MDAs carried out thorough scrutinisation of their approved budgetary proposals, the issue of insertion or budget padding wouldn’t have arisen at all, a realisation of which made the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi apologise after feigning ignorance of N8.6 billion in his Ministry’s budget during an interface with Senate Committee on Defence.

“There’s also a gap of coordination even with the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. We will be taking necessary measures to make sure that going forward these gaps are addressed on our site and also work with the ministers to make sure that the gaps that they have between the Project Implementation units on the CEOs are also bridged.

“Specifically for multilateral bilateral funded projects, the PIUs are domiciled in the designated implementing MDS and the lenders will not deal with any other agency but that beneficiary agency including the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on procurements and as well as on several other aspects of the project implementation.”

The Committee expressed satisfaction over the clarification made by the Minister but challenged the shoddy implementation of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) given the lack of records of verifiable beneficiaries.

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