Politics

At last, Senate pass 2016 budget

Open invitation! Senate invites public to 2017 budget hearing

The Senate has passed the 2016 budget on Wednesday which was sent to a joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, on December 22, 2015.

The Upper Chamber approved a budget of N6.06 trillion.

Senate Committee on Appropriation set the recurrent expenditure at N2.6 trillion, Capital expenditure at N1.5 trillion, while Fiscal deficit was set at N2.2 trillion

Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje who presented the report of his committee noted that in view of the revenue and general economic challenges confronting the country, “the committee, has in a landmark decision, not witnessed since the advent of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, reduced the size of the aggregate expenditure and consequently reduced the total recurrent, deficit and borrowing plan.”

Part of the highlights of the budget as passed included  Aggregate Expenditure N6,060,677,358,227; Statutory  Transfers  N351,370,000.000 (retained); Debt Service N1,475,320,000,000 (retained); Recurrent Expenditure reduced from N2,648,600,000,000 to N2,646,389,236,196; Capital Expenditure also reduced from N1,845,540,000,000 to N1,587,598,122,,031; Fiscal Deficit N2,204,936,925,711.16 while Deficit/GDP is 2.14%.

The Senate adopted a bench mark price of $38 per barrel on crude oil based on the recommendation of the Senate on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/ Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP)

The same benchmark of $38pb adopted by the Senate was also proposed by the Executive.

The Executive proposals of crude oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day and an exchange rate of N197 to $1 were also adopted

The committee observed that the late presentation of the budget affected its timely passage.

The committee also said that the 2016 Appropriation Bill, after its presentation to the National Assembly, was seen to be “fraught with some inconsistencies from ministries, departments and agencies, given the subsequent reference by them to different versions of the budget.”

Goje who said that the inconsistencies in the fiscal document were also noticed at the level of the sub-committees, described them as “strange and goes against proper budgetary procedures and processes with attendant implications.”

The committee chairman told the Senate that they observed that the available revenue for appropriation was grossly inadequate to meet the huge demand of MDAs to prosecute needed programmes for national development across all spheres in the economy.

Goje said, “The 2016 (Appropriation) Bill seeks to stimulate the economy by the recurrent expenditure as compared to the capital component at a ratio of 30:70% is still very high. This takes away from the infrastructure-stimulus funding that the country so desperately needs for development.”

He noted that the Appropriation Bill contained a number of omissions particularly in the area of personnel cost.

Goje added that “though the Appropriation Committee has filled some of the gaps, there are many outstanding cases which could raise serious concern in the course of the year.”

The committee recommended among others that subsequent budgets should be submitted in strict compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act to enable the National Assembly conduct proper engagement and to conclude the budget in good time.

The committee also said that there should be proper engagement in future between the Budget Office and MDAs on the budget contents in order to avoid  what appeared to be a disconnect between them in the processing of the budget proposals.

Goje specifically referred to a situation where some MDAs disowned their budget before the Appropriation Committee.

Some statutory transfer allocations included National Judicial Council N70b; Niger Delta Development Commission N41,050b, Universal Basic Education N77,110b; National Assembly N115b; Public Complaint Commission N2b, Independent National Electoral Commission N45b and National Human Rights Commission N1210b.

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Debt Service: Domestic debts N1,307,400,000,000 while N54,480,000,000 was allocated for Foreign Debts service.

Presidential Amnesty Programme stipends and allowances of 30,000 Niger Delta ex-militants was allocated N7,875,000,000, Presidential Amnesty Programme operational cost N1,834,149,261 while N10,290,850739 was voted for Presidential Amnesty Programme reintegration of transformed ex-militants.

Other allocations were Ministry of Agriculture N46,175,963,859; Ministry of Defence N130,864,439,542; Ministry of Education N35,433,487,466; Ministry of Health N28,650,342,987, Ministry of Information and Culture N6,071,503,956; Ministry of Interior N61,713,279496; Ministry of Justice N879,736,744; Ministry of Solid Mineral Dev N7,332,623,257; Ministry of Niger Delta N19,440,328,551; Ministry of Transportation N188,674,679,674; Ministry of  Works, Power and Housing N422,964,928,495.

Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki  said that what is unique about the exercise of passing the budget was that for once there was no bickering over benchmark.

He said that they devoted time and energy to ensure that the country have a budget that is implementable.

He said, “We have all seen the earlier hiccups in the beginning of the budget and we hope that by the time we are about to get the 2017 budget, the agencies and the budget office would improve their level of interaction and government itself would bring the  budget much earlier to give ample opportunity. It is very important that we do this.

“We have played our part, the different committees should do their job now in the area of oversight to ensure that we have a budget that is fully implementable”, he noted.

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