Senate president, Bukola Saraki
Senate president, Bukola Saraki

SENATE yesterday approved the N180.8 billion virement request by President Muhammadu Buhari, for the 2016 appropriations funding. The Senate passed the supplemental spending bill in short order, after so much debate was done on it by senators who said they were reflecting the Senate’s desire to further assist the nation out of recession. Speaking on the development, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, stated that the Senate believes that the Presidency will target the funding of local contractors as a way to push more resources to different areas of the country. “As we work to release these special intervention funds for critical recurrent and capital items, it is important that these contractors have a track-record of efficient and quality work,” he stated. Saraki also stated that the Senate would utilise its oversight powers to ensure that the contracts follow a competitive bidding process, and that the projects themselves have a positive impact on the economy of local areas through the economic multiplier effect. “Moving forward, as we round out the year,” he said, “The Senate and the Presidency will continue to work cooperatively to utilise the 2016 budget as a tool for economic growth and relief for local communities.” President Buhari had forwarded to the National Assembly a requests for approval of virement of N180.8 billion in the 2016 budget for provision of needed votes for some sectors. The president made the requests in two separate letters to both the Senate president, and speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, which were read on the floors of both chambers. Buhari in the virement request said the N180 billion would be moved from monies already appropriated for special intervention programmes, both recurrent and capital, for funding of critical recurrent and capital items. He said the request arose due to a number of reasons including; shortfalls in provisions for personnel costs; inadequate provision ab initio for some items like the amnesty programme; Continuing requirements to sustain the war against insurgency; and depreciation of the Naira. The letter read in part: “In the course of implementing the 2016 Appropriation Act, several MDAs have presented issues pertaining to salary shortfalls, the settlement of part of which has led to the depletion of the Public Service Wage Adjustment, PSWA. This vote, which had a provision of N33, 597,400,000, now has a balance of N2, 758,296,000. “The Committee on Salary Shortfalls, set up by the Honourable Minister of Finance, has come up with a figure of N41, 875,983,020 as the amount required to settle salary shortfalls of non-lPPlS MDAs. Similarly, most of the lPPlS MDAs have already been notified by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, OAGF, that they would soon be locked out of the IPPIS Platform as their Personnel Cost budgets would not cover salaries for the rest of the year.
“The lPPlS Department in the OAGF has forwarded a figure of N20, 058,204,856 as the sum required to cover the shortfall in salaries of lPPlS MDAs. The Security-related lines in the Service Wide Vote, specifically Operations internal for the Armed Forces (N13billion) and Operation Lafiya Dole (N8billion) have all been totally released while the Nigerian Air Force needs about (N12,708,367,476) to cover the foreign exchange differentials in the procurement of its critical capabilities. “The contingency vote of N12billion has a balance of only N1, 827,570,443. It is considered necessary to augment this vote in the light of frequently emerging contingencies. “Only N20,000,000,000 (already released) was provided in the 2016 budget for the Niger Delta Amnesty Progrmme. Consequently, the allowances to exmilitants have only been paid up to May 2016. This is creating a lot of restiveness and compounding the security challenge in the Niger Delta. “The Provision for NYSC in the 2016 budget is inadequate to cater for the number of corpers to be mobilised this year. In fact, an additional N8.5billion is required to cover the backlog of 129, 469 corps members who are currently due for call-up but would otherwise be left out till next year due to funding constraints. Similarly, the provision for meal subsidy for the Unity Colleges is inadequate for the number of students in the schools. “Also, there was no provision for feeding of cadets at the Police Academy, Wudil, Kano. These situations are hampering the operations of the affected agencies. The provision for Statutory Transfer to the Public Complaints Commission, PCC, was reduced to N2, 000,000,000 in 2016 from N4, 000,000,000 in 2015. Consequently, the agency is experiencing difficulty in paying salaries of its personnel as and when due. “Due to the devaluation of the Naira, the budgetary provisions for the foreign missions are no longer sufficient to cover all their costs.
“The provision for Presidential Initiative for the North East (N12, 000,000,000) had a balance of less than N1.5billion, and there continue to be emerging challenges with the Internally Displaced Persons, lDPs, in the zone.” The breakdown of the virement proposal shows that N71.8 billion is for public service wage adjustment, N35billion for amnesty programme, N19.8billion for mobilisation of remaining batches of Youth corps members for the year etc. …sets up 6-man committee to probe revenue agencies Also, Senate yesterday constituted a sixman high-powered ad hoc committee to investigate federal government’s revenue generating agencies over claims that they are under-remitting billions of naira realised every year. The committee is expected to submit its report to the Senate for further consideration within six weeks. The setting up of the committee followed a motion tagged ‘Urgent Need to Investigate Revenue Generation agencies for Non Remittance of Generated Revenue’ and sponsored by Senator Solomon Adeola who was also appointed to head the probe committee. The setting up of the committee is coming two weeks after the federal government accused revenue-generating agencies of siphoning money. Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun in October also accused revenue generating agencies of diverting generated revenues meant for the government. President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, while setting up the committee frowned at the practice, saying revenue generating agencies generated over N1.5 trillion last year but could only deliver less than N500 billion. Saraki said: “As I keep on hammering, independent revenue and non-oil revenue are very important areas of our budget. This independent revenue is 37 per cent. You remember that last year it was almost N1.5 trillion and am told now that this year is likely to come down to 500 billion because they could not meet the target. “The inability to meet the target is not that they do not have the capacity to meet the target. The problem is that there is too much abuse on this operating surplus where people spend up to the last naira in all. I think the best way forward is for us to address this issue in blocking these leakages and I believe that in constituting the ad hoc committee, we would just take the best hands and still bring people from Finance and Public Accounts Committees.” Senator Adeola in his remarks, said all revenues and monies raised or received are expected be paid into the consolidated revenue fund of the federation. He revealed that the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007 was enacted to ensure transparency, accountability and to prevent corrupt practices in relation to public revenues and expenditure. He expressed worry that governmentowned companies had over the years grossly violated the letters of the 1999 Constitution and the Fiscal Responsibility Act in relation to their revenue generation activities and expenditures. “The various audit queries against these agencies over the years further indicates possible mismanagement of public funds against the spirit of the Constitution and Fiscal Responsibility Act. “In view of federal government’s dwindling revenues from the traditional crude oil sector and the on-going recession, these government bodies are continuing in short-changing government of needed revenue through various illegal practices,” Senator Adeola noted. In his contribution, deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu said there was need to review the existing laws setting up the agencies, adding that if the revenues generated were carefully monitored, there might not be need to borrow money to fund the budget.

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