Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is misleading Nigerians over the level of implementation of the 2012 budget, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity, Zakari Mohammed, has said.
Speaking to reporters yesterday in Abuja over comments credited to the finance minister where she was quoted as saying the Federal Government has implemented 56 percent of this year's budget, the spokesman said she misrepresented the facts as only 34 per cent has so far been implemented.
He said: "It is not true that the executive arm has implemented, as at today, 56% of the 2012 budget as widely reported. In truth, about 34% of the budget has been implemented. What the minister admitted to as can be confirmed from her own words is that, at best government has implemented 56% of the N404 Billion released to MDAs.
"The Minister was clear in saying that, of this amount (N404 billion) only N324 billion has so far been cash backed. In order words, it is only N324 billion that is available to the MDAs for implementation of capital projects and programmes of government out of about N1.5 trillion appropriated for all capital expenditure," the spokesman added.
Mohammed also said the House of Representatives does not agree with the Minister that the slow pace of implementation of the 2012 budget is as a result of the constituency projects introduced into the budget by the National Assembly "because constituency projects represent less than 10% of the 2012 capital budget."
He said the executive seems to be suffering from 'military hangover' where budgets were announced after a meeting of the Supreme Military Council.
"The Federal Executive Council, FEC, is not the equivalent of the SMC. The National Assembly has replaced the SMC. If the Appropriation Act is to be sent back to the Executive the way it is presented, then it is better that the National Assembly is abolished," the lawmaker said, adding that in a constitutional democracy, the National Assembly exercises the constitutional responsibility of taking care of the interests and aspirations of Nigerians from every constituency in the budget process.
"There is no law that says the budget must be returned to the President exactly the way it is forwarded to the National Assembly," the spokesman said.
The House had on Thursday 19th July, 2012 given President Jonathan up to September 18th to implement the budget 100 per cent or risk impeachment. The legislator emphasised this point yesterday, saying, "There are punitive measures in the constitution against non implementation of budget and we will not hesitate to use them. We are not toothless bulldogs because we will fall back to whatever constitutional provision at our disposal".
He said that the executive's refusal to implement the budget is a violation of section 6 of the 2012 Appropriation Act which states thus: "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, provided that not funds for any quarter of the fiscal year shall be differed without prior waiver from the National Assembly".