The Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, on Sunday said he saved the federal government about N600 million in the 2018 budget.
He also said he did not abandon any federal government project contrary to claims recently by the Senate committee in communications.
Mr Shittu said one of the reasons for the delay in executing the said projects was due to the delay in the approval of the budget by the National Assembly, for seven months.
He said he had saved the federal government N600 million ”with the efforts he made to look critically at the petitions which were written against the procurement department in the ministry among other efforts in the contacts included in the 2018 budget of the ministry.”
The Senate committee on communication on Thursday in Abuja bemoaned what it described as the ministry’s poor budget performance.
The committee said it was difficult for the sum of N18.1 billion to be approved for the Ministry of Communications in 2019, saying the ministry’s performance as regards the 2018 budget was poor.
The committee presided over by Isah Hamman Misau, who stood in for its Chairman, Gilbert Nnaji, observed that the communication ministry’s 2019 budget was reduced by N1.6 billion ”less than that of 2018”.
It lamented that only 17 projects out of the 121 budgeted for (in 2018) were receiving attention two months to the end of 2018 budget year.
But, an irate Mr Shittu while reacting said: “President Muhammadu Buhari could not have made any mistake by appointing any of the current ministers (including me) which took him six months to do.
The minister, who was the gubernatorial candidate on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) in Oyo state in 2011, said he saved the Federal government N600 million ”with the decision he took to ensure transparency in the award of the ministry’s contacts in the 2018 budget”.
“To start with, it is inconceivable, that any minister abandon any federal government projects and I want to believe that President Muhammadu Buhari could not have made any mistake by appointing any of the current ministers.
”It took him six months, and he has done (did) thorough job, and I am happy that none of us has disappointed him nor disappointed Nigerians. So it is inconceivable that a minister will abandon federal government projects.
“The meaning of abandoning, you start something, and you then dissociate, discontinued. But in this case, the contracts or the projects which are subject matters of discussion are not yet commenced at all. They have not yet even been awarded,” he said.
”So the proper thing (to say) would be, there is a delay in awarding the contracts. So, it will be a misnomer to say that any project has been abandoned.
”Now they are accusing me of delay, something must have caused the delay.
“To start with, it took the National Assembly seven months to approve the budget, out of the 12 months of the budge life. The next thing is that, to award a contract, funds must be available, and also must be allocated for the specific project. And you will recall that the current system is what we called the ‘envelope system’ because each project is in its envelope.
“So, to award any contract, then there must be not only approval, but it must also be released. After the release, the procurement department of the ministry commenced work, the Ministerial tender board meeting was held six weeks ago. If there is no ministerial tender board meeting, then there is nothing for the minister to be approved.
“Six weeks ago, the ministerial tenders board met and sent their final report to me for my approval. As the board was coming in, we had several petitions protesting against the fact that there were suspicious deals by the procurement department.
“As an apostle of President Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade, I cannot turn the other eye. I must look at the petitions, and what I did was that: I set up a committee within the ministry which was inaugurated by the new permanent secretary two weeks ago. The report of that committee was turned in to the permanent secretary only last Monday.
“And as at the time we went to the committee, the report has not yet even gotten to me. And when we met the Senate committee and House of Representatives, I made this known to them and told them that there had been a delay given these issues, but I assured them that by this Tuesday, all the contracts would have been concluded. So, in such a situation, how do you talk of abandonment?”
He also explained that his ‘efforts’ at prudence saved the federal government funds that would otherwise have been wasted.
“The exercise I embarked on would be saving the federal government N600 million. That means, if I had not taken that step, N600 million would have gone. I saved the federal government N600 million with the efforts I have made.”