Senate to Check Budget Misappropriation
From Sufuyan Ojeifo in Abuja,
In a bid to ensure that funds allocated for projects are not misappropriated, the Senate has decided to embark on an all-year monitoring of budgets, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze, has said.Speaking with THISDAY yesterday in Abuja ahead of Senate’s resumption of plenary tomorrow, Eze said the upper legislative chamber had set up an ad-hoc committee on the National Assembly and Research office to fine-tune the process of tracking the budget and expenditure.He said the Senate would receive from the ad-hoc committee reports of its meeting with the House of Representatives with a view to setting up the office.According to him, “the Senate has set up an ad-hoc committee on the National Assembly Budget and Research Office. We would like to hear how far they have gone in their collaboration with the House of Representatives with a view to setting up that office. “One of the reasons that have caused a lot of confusion in our treating the budget has been that the facts are only coming from one side (the Executive branch) and second, the facts are usually delayed and rushed towards the end. “Now, the National Assembly wants to have its own Budget Office that will enable it to track revenue from January to December and be able to have all the propositions so that the issue of benchmarking cannot be an arbitrary decision; so that the issue of Medium-Term Frameworks cannot be arbitrarily determined by one side,” he said.Eze added: “It is something that everybody will understand and consummate and be in positions to make contributions. So the committee is an important committee and we want to know what the committee has been able to do within the short period.”Eze said: “This is also part of the determination of the Senate to ensure that budget monitoring is an all-year round exercise and we are deciding that rather than just hold these sessions during budget, we are going to continue to hold the sessions periodically.” He said the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) would come to defend their budgets all through the year “so that we follow budget performance; so that the sort of things we are seeing now where somebody will appropriate money for a project, assess that project and then put the money in some interest-yielding accounts by some faceless persons will become a thing of the past.” Decrying a situation where “by December, no contract had been awarded and the money had been accessed early in the year simply because there had not been extensive over-sighting,” Eze said, “That will stop. I can assure you.”Eze said the 2008 budget would be ready before the end of this month if the Senate kept up with the speed at which it was currently considering the budget at the sub-committee and Appropriation committee levels.“I believe that working at the speed at which we are going, the budget will be ready before the end of this month. It may not be ready by mid-December, but it should be ready definitely before the end of the month,” he said.“When the Senate resumes on Tuesday (tomorrow), more importantly, we would expect to hear from the Appropriation Committee on how far they have gone with the work of trying to tidy up the budget so that we can go to the next session of calling a joint conference with the lower house so that we can pass the budget,” he said.He also disclosed that the Senate would consider the approval of the three outstanding ambassadorial nominees- Mohammed Buba Marwa, Kema Chikwe and Polycarp Nwite-who were screened by the Foreign Affairs Committee about two weeks ago.According to him, “A lot of outstanding issues will be cleared. You know that there are three ambassadorial nominees that were not screened ab-initio. They have now been screened. They have to come to the Senate for final approval. “There are also a number of committee assignments and reports like the report of the Committee on Finance on the nomination of Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS),” he said.
This article was taken from the online version of ThisDay Newspaper, thisdayonline.com