21 November 2012

Nigeria: House Decries Poor Budget Performance in Power Sector

Abuja — The House of Representatives Committee on Power Tuesday expressed concerns over the poor utilisation of the funds appropriated for the power sector.

This came as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter Governmental Affairs, Senator Dahiru Kuta, lambasted the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGoF), the various Chief Executives of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), over what he termed giving out jobs to the highest bidder.

Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Patrick Ikhariale, disclosed that whereas the sum of N75billion was appropriated to the sector and the sum of N34.7 billion was released by the Ministry of Finance, only N19.7 billion was utilised by the Ministry of Power.

Ikhariale, who spoke at a budget defence session, said the implication was that the Ministry of Power does not need such a huge amount of money and lacked the capacity to implement its capital budget.

"We are very concerned with the development in the power sector. We need to get a clear position on what is happening in the sector.

"At the last meeting, we left a message for all the chief executives of agencies in the sector. Even if they have no budget in 2013 they still owe Nigerians explanation on the utilisation of 2012. We need their performance briefs to enable us work on the 2013 budget," he said.

Meanwhile, at another budget defence session, lawmakers had some harsh words for the Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Ita Okon Bassey-Ewa and his team.

Members of the House Committee on Science and Technology were aggrieved at the apparent reluctance of the minister to respond to questions on the implementation of the 2012 budget.

Chairman, House Committee on Science and Technology, Hon. Abiodun Akinlade, had demanded from the minister the level of the 2012 budget performance in terms of percentage.

But apparently not wanting to be boxed to a corner, Bassey-Ewa evaded the question and declined to give a percentage score to the budget.

This triggered the hot exchange of words. After consultations with his colleagues, Akinlade ordered minister to leave and get himself adequately prepared to appear before the committee at a later date. Kuta while threatening to call for a public hearing over the development in the country, made the disclosure yesterday while receiving the Permanent Secretary in SGoF, Mr. Charles Banat.

He added that the trend has grown that it has now become a cankerworm in the society and has seriously dented the image of government across board.

He said: "The Office of the Secretary to Government is the engine room of this administration but unfortunately for you the image of this country is been battered in respect of issues that you are aware of now.

"I will talk about job creation as people are eager that we create jobs for them but it is sad that jobs that are created are meant for the highest bidders.

"Candidates now pay money before they get jobs and some of these candidates have to sell some of their properties in order to able to get employment. This is happening all over the country. Most of the agencies and parastatals are guilty of this offence."

Continuing, he added: "I want you to please call on the office of the Federal Civil Service Commission and the Federal Character Commission to also be aware of this because they are also guilty of these happenings.

"We have all the details. We do not want to take a resolution in the Senate and be able to go to public hearing on this matter, because this matter has gone far and everywhere in terms of parastatsals and paramilitary organisations that candidates must pay money before they get employment, particularly candidates that are not privileged."

The committee also frowned on the non implementation of the principle of federal character, which according to Kuta has been thrown overboard, particularly by virtually all the executives and ministries.

"The areas where some chief executives, most of the decision makers are all from that area, it is not good enough for the image of this country.

Also, the Senate bemoaned the Director General of the Federal Character and Inter Governmental Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbile over the allocation of N30 million to wildlife in the 2013 budget.

It observed that there was a slight improvement in the implementation of the 2012 budget over that of 2012. He said: "We observed that there is still improvement in 2012 budget over that of 2011.

"We are praying hard that the 2013 budget there will also be some improvement in the 2012 budget. He added that there the Agency must show prudence in the management of funds in the 2013 budget. He said: "As compared to government spend in a country like South Africa in State House for example, we are still saying that there is still room for improvement especially in the overhead particularly as it affects feeding and other thing but at the same time we have also agreed that South Africa has only about 50 million people, while Nigeria has over 150 million and therefore the services are more expansive and we have to be very careful as we go into that but definitely we have not been too comfortable over the years about the amount of money allocated to certain items in the Presidency."

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