Abuja - The House of Representatives on Sunday disagreed with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, over her claims on the implementation of the 2012 budget.
Okonjo-Iweala told a news conference in Abuja on July 25 that the implementation of the 2012 budget was 56 per cent.
However, Rep. Zakari Mohammed, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, told a news conference in Abuja on Sunday that the minister’s claim on the budget’s implementation was not true.
He stressed that only about 34 per cent of the budget had been so far implemented.
``What the minister admitted, which can be confirmed from her own words, is that government had released N400 billion to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs),’’ he said.
Zakari, however, stressed that only N324 billion was made available to the MDAs for implementation of capital projects, out of about N1.5 trillion appropriated for all capital expenditure.
He said that available facts showed that funds so far released to the MDAs were not even enough to finance ongoing projects or projects chosen by the executive arm of government.
Besides, Zakari disagreed with the minister’s viewpoint that the slow pace of the 2012 budget’s implementation was due to the constituency projects introduced into the budget by the National Assembly.
He stressed that the constituency projects represented only 10 per cent of the budget, adding that the projects could, therefore, not be responsible for slow implementation of the capital budget.
``For the avoidance of doubt, constituency projects represent less than 10 per cent of the 2012 capital budget.
``How can this be the reason for the slow implementation of the budget?’’ he asked.
Zakari noted that Section 6 of the Appropriation Act, 2012, clearly delineated the responsibilities of the finance minister regarding issues of budget implementation.
According to him, the Act states that ``the Minister of Finance shall ensure that funds appropriated under this Act, are released to the appropriate agencies and or organs of government as and when due.’’
He said that the Act also stated that ``no funds for any quarter of the fiscal year shall be deferred without prior waiver from the National Assembly.’’
Zakari stressed that the minister had no discretionary power to choose projects and programmes that would be funded.
``It is not within her powers to pick and choose projects and programmes to fund, as has been the case with the Appropriation Act 2012.
``Her piecemeal and discretionary release of funds for projects, contrary to the schedule approved in the Appropriation Act, is unlawful.
``She is, in fact, apparently breaking the law,’’ he said.
Zakari said that the minister was only required to ensure that all funds appropriated for projects within a particular quarter were released to all the ministries, departments and agencies as at when due without preference.
``If the revenue target is not achieved in any particular period, it is the responsibility of the minister to seek for a waiver from the National Assembly," he said.
Zakari, nonetheless, gave the assurance that the House would continue to insist on the full implementation of budgets.
``We are not at war with anybody; we shall continue to engage all other arms of government constructively.
``The security, welfare and prosperity of Nigerians have always remained uppermost in our consideration whenever we are raising concerns on the slow implementation of the 2012 Appropriation Act.
``We further wish to urge all MDAs to continue with the procurement processes and eventual award of contracts for all capital projects within their purview,’’ he said.