Government to stop judgment debts in future budget appropriation

The Federal Government says it would not provide for judgment debt payment by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in future budget appropriations.

Minister of Finance and Coordination Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said at the public presentation of the 2012 budget in Abuja on Monday that government is worried about the rising incidence of judgment debts by MDAs.

Apart from a provision of about N12billion in this year’s budget for judgment debts, the minister said the government is still working with the Ministry of Justice to see how the outstanding of about N80billion could be settled.

“Government is worried about the rising incidence of leakages, particularly on judgment debts by MDAs,” she said. “As we speak, there is an outstanding of about N80billion of the judgment debt that has not been paid, outside the N12billion included in this year’s budget, which is not even enough to settle the issue. At the moment, we are working with the Attorney General, who says there are many suits pending against government that are not settled starting from past administrations.

“This is alarming. Judgment debts seem to be mounting and mounting. The way to tackle it is that government is not going to be making provision for judgment debts in the annual budget again so that people do not think that there is a pot of money somewhere that they can tap.

“Henceforth, if there is an issue in any sector, then that sector would have to pay for the judgment debt out of their budgets, because any time government starts provisioning for anything in Nigeria, all of a sudden an industry would begin to build up around it. If government makes people to be responsible for judgment debts in their own sectors, they would have to deal with it. We are saying it now to everybody, after N12billion, there is nothing more for judgment debts. 

 “We have to make it clear now that there is no pot of money waiting to be tapped. If we have only N12billion for judgment debts in this year’s budget, how are we going to pay the outstanding N80billion in judgment debt? We are all very clever in this country, and government must not do anything that helps towards undue cleverness in this regard.”

 In her overview of the performance of the economy, the minister said government achieved more than 80 per cent in the release of the 2012 appropriation, pointing out that the thrust of the 2012 budget is to diversify the country’s economic base to cover the agricultural sector as a way of creating jobs for the youth.

Similarly, she said government is committed to the completion of viable on-going capital projects over the medium term, adding that policies identified in the transformation agenda of the present administration as strategic to the infrastructure development of the country would enjoy priority attention.

She said the computerised integrate payroll and personnel information payroll system has so far been implemented in 74 MDAs, with over N14 billion saved through the elimination of ghost workers, adding that the exercise by the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) is to be completed this year with the roll out in all the MDAs.

Apart from public officials identified in connection with various fraudulent activities uncovered in the ongoing pension fund probe, the minister said government to engage the services of independent audit firs like the KPMG to investigate the management of similar schemes in other sectors.

To ensure effective monitoring of the annual budget implementation, the minister said the presidency is to formalise the process by the Ministry of Planning demanding each ministry to develop key performance indicators that are to be monitored.

The identify indicators, she said, would be consolidate into measurable achievements to guide future planning and allocation of resources, pointing out that each of these achievements would be published for Nigerians to have a basis for holding their public officers accountable.

Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, who spoke on the effort to check the growing insecurity in the northern part of the country, said government has adopted a three-pronged approach, including dialogue with the affected parties, inclusive job creation to the affected areas through the agriculture sector, solid minerals and public works programme and use of intelligence gathering. 

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