Senate yesterday failed to pass the 2016 budget before the floor of the Red Chamber as promised, citing data differences with both legislative chambers that needed to be harmonised before its passage.
Senate Committee Chairman, Media and Publicity, Senator Abdullahi Sabi in a joint press conference with his colleague in the House of Representatives, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas, said they hoped to lay the budget next week and pass it barring any unforeseen hitches that could stall legislative proceedings.
According to him, both chambers of the National Assembly were working round the clock to make sure that the budget is properly harmonised, and should therefore be excused for not keeping to their word of either passing it on the 17th March as earlier promised or laying it yesterday for discussion.
He explained that the Assembly hasn’t failed as is being touted but that they were only being careful due to the importance they attached to the document since it is the first in the administration of the All Progressives Congress, APC government.
He discountenanced any other information being circulated in the media, as being responsible for the failure to pass the budget, adding that they are the official spokespersons of the National Assembly and that any other source or opinion is personal.
It was reported that the Senate and House Joint Committee on Appropriation had detected fresh errors in the 2016 budget; and that the errors were responsible for the failure of the committee to present its report to the two chambers of the National Assembly on Wednesday as promised.
The errors, the reports said, would not have affect on the plan of the National Assembly to transmit the budget to President Muhammadu Buhari before Easter as efforts were being made to correct them.
It was learnt that one of the anomalies detected was in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, where provisions had been made for procurement and installation of security systems every year since 2013.
For example, in 2013, the sum of N527,000,000 was budgeted for the item; in 2014, N1,161,356,582 was allocated to the same item; in 2015, N316,420,274 was budgeted for it; and N1,710,322,610 is to be spent on the procurement and installation of security system in the SGF office in 2016.
The committee also detected items without project locations in the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing (headquarters).
Such projects included the construction of a block of three classrooms at the cost of N85,592,483; construction of a maternity centre for N91,124,858; and the allocation of N172,623,767 for the building of skill acquisition centres.
The committee pointed out that oversight function would not be possible without project locations.
It was learnt that the committee also discovered anomalies in the allocation of large amounts of money for the rehabilitation and repair of office buildings as well as purchase of office items and fittings.
Not less than N21billion was allocated to such repairs and purchase at the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government.
The committee also detected duplication of items. For example, N2.3billion was earmarked for former heads of state in the service wide vote of the Ministry of Budget and Planning, while N400,190,000 was allocated to the affairs of the former heads of state in the SGF office.
Other examples of duplication include allocation of N256,920,000 for the purchase of equipment, vehicles and furniture for the National Bureau of Statistics and the N230,705,000 by the NBS for the same purpose.
It was also learnt that the committee discovered instances where allocations for the purchase of items were made without stating the quantities to be bought.
Such include the construction of solar boreholes at the cost of N140million in the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing and in the National Power Training Institute, N81million was budgeted for operational vehicles.
The committee described some items as curious. These include the allocation of N340million for wildlife conservation at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and N150million for growing girls and women project at the Federal Road Maintenance Agency.
Another curious budgetary item is the refund of N2,479,581,721 to states for federal roads, which was placed under the National Intelligence Agency.
The reports had it that when contacted, the Senate spokesperson, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said the errors had been corrected at the committee stage.
He said that there were no fresh errors and challenged anyone with contrary information to publish the source.
Abdullahi said, “The errors in the budget were identified at the various committee levels. The Appropriation committees of both chambers had jointly scrutinised the document and had come up with an error-free copy.
“As a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, I can confirm to you that I am not aware of any fresh error discovered after the joint committee of the two chambers had worked on the budget.
“I challenge anyone with contrary information to publish it together with the source.”