Abuja — The Senate yesterday expressed deep concern over low release of the 2018 Appropriation to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), saying some of the agencies received as little as 10 per cent of the approved allocation during the period under review.
But the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, attributed the low performance of the budget to its late passage by the National Assembly as well as revenue constraints encountered by the Muhammadu Buhari administration amid fluctuation in global oil price at its inception.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information, Senator Suleiman Adokwe (PDP Nasarawa South), who raised the alarm yesterday during the 2019 budget defence of the Federal Ministry of Information, decried the poor implementation of the 2018 budget and blamed the executive arm of government for not releasing adequate funds that could enable the federal agencies to execute developmental projects.
According to him, "Before the budget defence exercise, we have done oversight functions and noticed that releases for capital projects were quite low. Most of the agencies that we visited received between 10 and 15 per cent releases.
"Based on our interactions with the various agencies of government, we have discovered that capital releases are still very low. So far, the highest I have seen, the highest release is 67 per cent.
"Releases to some agencies are hovering between 40 and 45 per cent. So, the 2018 budget implementation, in our opinion is not very encouraging, and capital releases are what really ginger the economy."
Adokwe said since it is the expenditure arising from capital provisions that put money in the system, which has been very low, only salaries have been paid up to 100 per cent.
He added: "Overhead releases have not been up to 60 per cent in many cases and even most agencies received just for six months for the 2018 financial year, which is not good enough.
"If you look at the 2018 total budget of N9 trillion; it sounds like a big money until when you do a quick conversion in dollars that you will discover that it is actually about $25 billion."
Nigerians, he explained, are not feeling the impact of government because of the failure of the executive to adequately fund the budget.
Adokwe, therefore, advised the executive to release all the funds that would be appropriated in 2019 for the various ministries, departments and agencies if it wants Nigerians to feel the impact of government.
"The revenue being generated yearly by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Nigerian Customs Service and other collection agencies are even higher than what we are talking about; so, why are we experiencing poor releases?" he queried.
Responding, the committee Chairman, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, asked the minister to furnish the committee with detailed breakdown of the budget.
The committee, he said, believed that the revenue capacity of the sector should be raised for the country to benefit, adding that steps should be taken to position the sector to take its pride of place in the scheme of things in the country.
The ministry proposed N20,480,057,749 as its budget estimate for 2019.
Out of the amount the sum of N8,559,365,940 is for personnel cost, N1,726,419,857 is for overhead while N10,194,271,952 is for capital projects.
FG Blames Low Budget Performance on Late Passage, Revenue Constraint
Meanwhile, giving reasons for the low performance of the 2018 budget, the Udoma told the Senate Committee on Finance that the late passage of the 2018 budget by the National Assembly and revenue constraints encountered by the administration amid fluctuation in global oil price at its inception were responsible.
According to him, the overall revenue performance was only 55 per cent of the target in the 2018 budget.
The minister, in a document he presented to the Senate committee, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY yesterday by the minister's spokesman, Mr. James Akpandem, further explained that "Of the total appropriation of N9.12 trillion, N7.24 trillion had been spent by December 31, 2018. This represents 79 per cent performance.
"Debt service and the implementation of non-debt recurrent expenditure, notably payment of workers' salaries and pensions were on track."
He said: "Capital releases only commenced after the signing of the 2018 Budget on June 20, 2018. As at January 11, 2019, a total of N1.226 trillion had been released for capital projects.
"Spending on capital has been prioritised in favour of critical ongoing infrastructural projects in the power, roads, rail and agriculture sectors.
"Implementation of the 2018 Capital Budget will continue into 2019 until the 2019 Budget is passed into law," the document stated.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had described as unfortunate, how the federal government and many commentators always ignorantly accuse the National Assembly of delaying the Appropriations Bill.
He said it was very unfair for the executive to consistently and repeatedly blame the National Assembly for delaying passage of the budget while failing to address the issue of late budget submission on its part.
He said that the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 provides that the Appropriations Bill be submitted not later than September of the preceding year, which will give the parliament ample time to process the document and pass it in good time.
Unfortunately, he said, the 2019 Appropriations Bill was submitted on December 19, 2018, just 12 days to the end of the year and the earliest time an Appropriation Bill has ever been presented to the National Assembly in this dispensation was on November 7, 2017.