Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon John Enoh, says that the row over the non-implementation of the budget between the House and the executive arm of government was not a personal issue. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, Enoh also says that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, misrepresented facts on the matter
Level of budget implementation
I do not think there are any further releases since after the motion was brought to the floor of the House. Normally, government releases funds for the implementation of the budget on quarterly basis whether recurrent or capital. As I speak with you, we just finished the first month of the third quarter and most of what has been released thus far for the third quarter is the recurrent monies to fund the recurrent expenditure. So, in the next few weeks, I’m sure the executive, precisely the Budget office will be busy with releases for capital projects. But as we speak, I am not sure if the situation has changed from what we decried when we took the motion on non budget implementation before embarking on recess. As at July 19, the day the House was going on recess, the total money that had been released for the two quarters was about N404 billion in the first quarter and just over a N100 billion in the second quarter. Even these monies that have been released, in terms of utilisation, in terms of what has been cash backed, is a little bit above N300 billion. This is the real expenditure. So, I don’t think the situation has changed since we spoke about it.
How to change the situation
I think something is already being done. Part of what the committee on Appropriation is entitled to do is to monitor the implementation of the national budget. And we have done quite a lot. We have organised the stakeholder’s forum where we threw to the front burner the issue of budget implementation because we have appreciated the fact that since 1999 the issue of budget implementation has always been a problem. And for the first time in 2012, given the kind of responsive manner the budget was passed and given the fact that we are raising this issue quite early in the year, there will be a change. In previous years, we normally wait until the last quarter before we start speaking about budget implementation, but I believe that what is taking place now is taking place at the right time. The issue of non implementation of budget is occupying the centre stage and everybody is being sensitised. I believe that the executive is going to use the period of this our recess to make releases for the third quarter, to make provisions for the short fall of the two quarters so that by the time we resume from recess, we will have an improved level of budget implementation.
Conflict over implementation
Yes, with the Senate now saying implementation is less than 30 per cent, it means the matter is even worse than the House envisaged. When the minister talked about 56 per cent utilisation, she was referring to the monies that have been released. That means for example, that if N324 billion is actually utilised by MDAs out of N404 billion released, it means the budget has been implemented. What the House is saying is that you do not work out these percentage based on what monies have been released, when we are saying you are not making enough releases. You have to base that percentage in terms of what should have been released. If you had listened to me on the floor that day, I said if you take N1.5 trillion and you divide it by the four quarters, you will get at least N375 billion that the executive is supposed to release quarterly. And there is no provision in our law that says that the release of funds is based on the ability of the MDAs to utilise the funds. The appropriation law is a law of the parliament and if you look at it, it says all monies appropriated for each quarter must be released in the appropriate quarter and that the minister of Finance shall not determine what monies to be released.
They cannot defer releases without seeking for a virement from the National Assembly. I am happy that the Senate has also joined and so it is not a House matter but a National Assembly issue, a matter that concerns all Nigerians. I expect Nigerians to start appreciating that there is nothing personal between the House of Representatives and the presidency. What is important is that the budget needs to be implemented and it is not being implemented. The minister’s percentage is based on a faulty premise; it is based on what has been released and we are saying, it should be based on the monies that should have been released, which is N375 billion times two. This will give you half of N1.5 trillion. And if you are following this based on the N404 billion that has been released, it is totally wrong.
The minister’s assertion on no 100 per cent budget implementation
A budget is a statement of intentions. If government wants to spend for example N4.7 trillion, this has to be predicated on the fact that government has the ability to raise the amount in terms of revenue. If there are revenue shortfalls, it is not only the minister that should have information about it. If there are revenue shortfalls in terms of the estimates, it is the responsibility of the minister to inform the National Assembly, but there is no time that we had an interaction with the minister of Finance and she raised the issue of revenue challenge. It has never come up and we assume the government has enough money to implement this budget. If other countries feel they cannot fully implement their budgets, you cannot say it is internationally accepted that budgets cannot be 100 percent implemented. But the minister has misconstrued what transpired on the floor of the House. When the House said that it wants a 100 percent implementation by September, it is not unaware of the fact that the budget is supposed to end by December 2012 and you don’t expect it to be 100 per cent implemented by September. The House position is that all monies that are supposed to be released for the first and second quarter and for the third quarter should be fully released by the time we come back in September. And we do not want to resume and meet the same situation we decried.
Capacity of MDAs to implement budgets
What is important is that let us solve one problem at a time. We are right now saying funds are not being released. If you look at the MDAs, a lot of procurement processes are stalled for the previous years. So, when funds are not being released, procurements processes are not concluded. But release the funds first, and the fact that they have been released does not mean it will be spent at that same time. There are capital accounts in the CBN and so on and at the end of the year, MDAs that are not able to spend their monies would return it to the government coffers. But you cannot sit within the comfort of your office and decide that because a particular ministry was not able to spend N5 million in the first quarter so you will not give them anything in the second quarter. And when I spoke on the floor, I said, year in year out, we commit funds to training, so what is it that the issue of capacity continues to remain a challenge since 1999?
Filed Under: Interviews