2019 Budget: Reps uncover errors in appropriation bill

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The House of Representatives has discovered some errors in the 2019 proposed budget, and tasked relevant committees of the Green Chambers to liaise with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, and the Ministry of Finance to urgently correct some irreconcilable differences in figures presented in the 2019 Appropriation Bill.

The Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who gave the directive on Wednesday after Hon. Adamu Chika representing Shiroro/ Rafi/Munya of Niger State and Hon. Ahman-Pategi representing Edu/Moro/Pategi Federal Constituency of Kwara State picked holes in the 2019 budget, said the ministries must present an error-free document Thursday to enable lawmakers continue work on the document.

Chika and Ahman-Pategi had pointed out that the appropriation bill was fraught with many errors in figures. While revealing some of the discrepancies in some of the figures, Hon. Chika stated that: “I want to raise some issues, particularly some errors I noticed in the national budget. As everyone knew, the schedule in the budget consists of part A, which is the statutory transfers and part B, which is the debt servicing, part C, which is the recurrent expenditure and part D, which is the capital expenditure.

“I will raise some issues, which have to do, one, with the Ministry of Education, two, Ministry of Finance and three, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and then, one observation with the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

“When you go to the education ministry, in part C, which is the recurrent expenditure, which consist both the personnel and overhead, you will realize that the budget is N462.2 billion, but when you go to the summary of the budget by the MDAs, number 41: 0.5.1.8 personnel now have changed to about N539.6 billion and overhead, there is N33.5 billion now making it that the total recurrent expenditure when you go by the summary by the MDAs has changed to N539 billion. I don’t know why that figure was added at that level.

“When you go to Ministry of Finance, the budget of the ministry in the recurrent expenditure in part C is N10.8 billion, however, there is also an error when you go to the summary, which is number 21: 2.2.0, personnel is N7.4 billion, which is okay, but when you go to the overhead, it now becomes N2.26 trillion and therefore that has also changed. Now the total which is now personnel and the overhead is now N2.27 trillion. That has also changed.

“In the Ministry of Budget and Planning, in the part C is N9.3bn, but however, when you go to the summary by MDAs, which is number 28: 0.2.3.8 personnel in the Ministry of Budget and Planning has now become N66.21 billion. Then overhead also changed there; it has now N832.2 billion. Then the total, which is personnel and overheard in that aspect has now become N1.49 trillion.

“The capital also has changed to about N655.9trillion, now giving us a total allocation of the Ministry of Budget and Planning, instead of N9.3bn has now become N2.15 trillion.

“Also, at the capital, which is D aspect, page 118 appeared only as ‘Federation.’ We don’t have any MDA called federation, but however, when I continued with the research, I realised that in that federation there is a capital component of N31.8 billion, but when I continued to search, I realised that federation, I found it in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), so why did they write federation?”

Corroborating the Chika’s findings, Ahman-Pategi said, “If you look at the budget; in the budget of the Ministry of Finance, the detail of overhead, salary and all that is correct. But in the summary detail on the right side column, that is where the mistake was made.”

According to him, “Anytime we discover it (error), they can attend to it. We know that what we are discussing the general principles. It will still get to the committee level and all those can be done. As for the ministry, we can get the Minister of Finance and the Chairman of Finance and Chairman of Appropriations to liaise with these three bodies; the Budget Office, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the Ministry of Finance.”

Speaker Dogara, who has continuously implored his colleagues to expedite action on the budget, however said the second reading of the budget could proceed in spite of the apparent flaws, adding that yesterday’s debate should merely look at the general principles of the budget.

He said, “Even though it is apparent on the surface of the budget that there are so many irreconcilable differences in the figures allotted, basically we are discussing the general principles of the budget by virtues of the provisions of our rules at this time. So, we would talk about general principles at this time.

“I am sure we are not concluding the debate today. I will direct relevant committee chairmen to liaise with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and Planning, to ensure that by tomorrow, before we conclude the debate on the budget, to make sure that we have the reconciled figures.

“So, for today, I want to admonish and plead with us to make sure that we confine ourselves to the general principles of the budget. I am by this announcement drawing the attention of the Ministry of Budget and Planning and Finance to the irreconcilable differences in the figures allotted in the budget and unfailingly, by tomorrow, if we must continue the debate on the budget, they must give us reconciled figures.”

In his reaction to the issues of the errors noted in the budget, the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, in whose name the budget stands, said human mistake are inevitable is such circumstance but that they will be corrected.

“Mathematical errors in figures are things that are normal. At worst, it may reflect some kind of tardiness but it doesn’t take away the substance and the merit of what we are debating. And if you know the rules of the House very well, we are not here to debate the intricate details of the figures and numbers of the budget, we debate the general principles. That is what the debate is about,” Gbajabiamila said.

He however acknowledged that “It is a good observation and I believe it has been noted. Like the Speaker said, it will be sent back; the communication will be done. They will correct the figures just here and there that may have the potential of distorting the numbers. That will be cleaned up.”

The Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun Yusuf was however unhappy that the budget is paltry to cater for the needs of every Nigerian, urging that now is time for all hands to be on the deck towards expanding the country’s economy.

“We are not what we think we are as a nation. We can deduct it from the figure the executive arm of government has always sent to us. We think we are a rich country but from the figures, we are very poor.

“The 2019 budget says the proposal is N8.7trn of which if we do a direct conversion that is just merely $28.52bn. What does that mean? It means the totality of the Nigerian budget for 2019 is just about $29bn. Apple alone declared a profit of almost $100bn after tax. So, if for 160m, it shows that for 2019, the total money that is due for one head is just $178.52 in a year and so we all have the duty as Nigerians to begin to think outside the box of how we can develop our country.”

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