Reps approve 2011 budget review three weeks to year end

The House hardly can refuse the President

With barely three weeks to the end of 2011, the House of Representatives is approving fresh budget reviews proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan to re-assign nearly N100 billion of federal spending.

Mr. Jonathan had requested the National Assembly to approve the virement of N98.4 billion across 10 ministries two months ago, a legislative practice that allows funding transferred from subheads considered less realizable to other pressing areas.

The affected ministries are: Niger Delta Affairs, Federal Capital Territory Administration, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Education, Police Formations and Command, Justice, Health, Ministry of Aviation and Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

Already within the final quarter of the year, the proposal drew the ire of the lawmakers who condemned repeated amendments to the budgets and a perennial dismal implementation of the approved spending.

But after referring the proposal to the relevant committees after a second reading last week, the House committees began approving the documents on Monday.

At the Senate too, the document has already been passed to committees for consideration.

The House Committee on Federal Capital Territory, FCT on Monday approved N940,703,866 million for the  FCT capital projects in what appears a shoddy procedure after meeting briefly with FCT minister, Bala Mohammed.

Other committees involved are expected to follow suit immediately before the end of the week in a spirited move to meet a target deadline announced by the speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, last week. Mr. Tambuwal had given the committees seven days to turn in their recommendations.

The House committee on FCT at a meeting with FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed and other officials of the Ministry, in just about 30 minutes, passed the request after which it held another meeting at the committee’s chairman, Emmanuel Jime’s office. The second meeting lasted   about an hour.

While considering the virement proposal for the FCT, some of the committee members who spoke said there was no need for the committee to discuss the proposal claiming that the plan “was very straight.”

Rather, members, Jerry Manwe, and Yakubu Dogara, tasked the Ministry team on the need to judiciously use of the money vired to the ministry.

The chairman of the Committee however told the minister that “if the funds is not accessed, the whole exercise of the virement will be a waste”.

Earlier, the Minister had told the lawmakers that “if the virement proposal is approved, we will be able to finish most of the capital projects in the 2011 appropriation.”

Implementation of budgets has remained a sore point between the executive and the legislature. For several years, the figure has hovered between 20% to 30%  annually.

With the fiscal year ending in weeks, budget implementation for 2011 stands under 40%, and that is most likely to be complicated by the approved virement, the lawmakers had earlier said.


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