Barely two weeks after President Goodluck Jonathan gave his assent to the 2013 Appropriation Act, the House of Representatives has alleged a breach of the law by the executive and threatened to take steps to checkmate the alleged abuse.
In the mean time, the lawmakers have summoned the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Dr Bright Okogwu, who was alleged to have been the instrument of the said breach.
The resolve to summon Okogwu followed a motion sponsored by the Minority Whip of the House, Hon. Samson Osagie, and adopted after a long debate that tended to divide the green chamber.
Osagie had in the motion alleged that shortly after Jonathan assented to the budget, Okogwu sent a circular to all Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) "instructing them" to ignore the contents of the Appropriation Act and to implement what is referred to as Amended Budget" which was being proposed to be laid before the National Assembly.
Osagie said it was a surprise that the same executive arm that complained of movement of funds from the recurrent budget of the MDAs by the National Assembly was seeking to compel the same MDAs to implement a purported annual budget that reflects gross deductions from the recurrent budgets as approved in the 2013 Appropriation Act.
"It is disturbing that a senior functionary of the executive arm of government would engage in the blatant breach of an extant Act only assented to by his employer. The action of the Director General, Budget Office is capable of destroying the growing rapport and spirit of cooperation between the legislature and the executive," Osagie said.
Several other lawmakers rose to condemn the alleged infraction but some of them called for caution and demanded that the said circular upon which the motion was built should have been made available to members to enable them ascertain the veracity of the allegations.
Deputy Leader of the House, Hon. Leo Ogor, Hon. Nado Karibo and Hon. Patrick Asadu were among those who demanded to see the letter.
They argued that seeing the letter was important to avoid a situation where the House could be misled into taking a hasty and inappropriate decision.
The letter was never produced but the motion was adopted in a voice vote. Okogwu is expected to appear before the Committees on Finance and Appropriation to explain his action and the reason for the circular.
The investigation is to last one week.
Meanwhile, the House has passed through second reading a bill seeking to alter the 1999 Constitution to make the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation financially independent.
The bill sponsored by the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Solomon Adeola, also seeks to provide for the Office of the Auditor General to have its budget on first line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Adeola argued that these amendments had become imperative because the Auditor General's Office though a strategic institution, had been starved of funds and relegated to the background over the years.
According to him, the financial autonomy will enhance the performance of the office and bring transparency and accountability to public finance management in the country.