The House of Representatives today gave an expected approval to President Goodluck Jonathan’s controversial year end budget review plans, but followed it up with a shocking reduction of the proposed amount by N66.5 billion.
Citing violations of appropriation laws in the request, the House approved only N31.9 billion against the N98.4 billion asked for by the president, in a vote that appeared to demonstrate lawmakers’ prolonged disgust for the executive’s frequent, and late budget alterations.
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.
With barely weeks to the end of 2011, the proposal drew the ire of the lawmakers who condemned repeated amendments to the budgets and a perennial dismal implementation of the approved spending.
In approving the amendments Wednesday, the House also authorized the extension of the 2011 budget lifespan to March 31, 2012 to allow for the completion of the budget implementation. The 2011 Appropriation Act initially had December 31, 2011 as its end date.
But the chairman of the House Appropriation committee, John Enoh, said the president’s proposal had negated sections of the 2011 Appropriation Act, which allows the National Assembly, the discretion to decide how the monies are transferred.
In this case, he said, the House intends that the transfers remain within ministries and departments, and not moved across them.
“On the recurrent side, our analysis revealed that funds were transferred between ministries/agencies contrary to clause (4) of the 2011 Appropriation Act,” he said.
“In view of the fact that we have just one month to go in the current financial year, the presumption is that funds must have already been accessed by the ministries and the departments concerned.”
Under the new amendments, the Niger Delta ministry received the highest with N10.9 billion followed by Health ministry with N6.6 billion, while the Education ministry got N538 million.