A joint session of the House of Representatives Committee on Inland Waterways, Land Transport, Ports and Harbours, and Marine Safety and Education, and the Senate Committee on Marine Transport have reportedly uncovered ‘nonexistent’ projects worth N4 billion in the 2020 budget proposal it received.
The National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA), said the amount was for the acquisition of vessels and barges as well as procurement of dredgers and other equipment.
In 2018, N2.2 billion was appropriated for the projects, and an additional N1 billion was appropriated in the 2019 appropriation, Punch Newspaper reported.
This discovery was made known during the budget defence session held for the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIWA Monday.
According to Punch Newspaper, the said projects include the National Freight Office in Idi-Iroko, Ogun State, for which N40.5 million was appropriated in 2017; N166 million in 2018; and N99 million in 2019. About N400 million was proposed in the 2020 budget estimates of the Federal Ministry of Transportation’s budget line item ERGP27102753 for the same project.
Other projects are the procurement of dredgers and other related equipment/vessels, for which N1.5 billion was proposed in NIWA’s 2020 proposal.
Speaking with journalists after the session, Jarigbe Jarigbe, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Waterways, called the discovery “infractions in the successive budgets”. He, therefore, hinted that a thorough investigation on the matter will follow.
Although money was appropriated for those projects in previous years, no evidence was tendered to show the money was released.
Since 2017, NIWA has never accessed 100% of its allocated funds.
The Budget Office keeps record of budgetary proposals and releases for each fiscal year.
However, from 2017 till date, the office only public displays breakdown of the releases to ministries; releases to the agencies under these ministries has no breakdown in its reports.
In 2017 , of the N241.7 billion that was proposed for the ministry of transportation, under which NIWA is, N127.9 billion (exactly N127,926,043,089) was released for capital expenditure.
Of the released amount, N124.3 billion was reportedly utilised.
As of June 2019, the 2018 budget had a proposal of N251.4 billion for capital expenditure, of which N139 billion was released and N128.9 billion was used.
Efforts to reach NIWA were futile as calls to the numbers of the agencies provided on its official website were all switched off, neither was a mail sent replied.
Earlier, the Senate Committee on Niger Delta also threw out the capital budget of the Ministry of Niger Delta Ministry affairs as a result abandoned projects it said littered the region.
In the last fortnight, MDAs have been taking their turns to defend their budgets before relevant committees of the National Assembly. The exercise is expected to end on Friday, after which plenary will resume.