•Lawmakers allege interference
From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
Almost a month after the National Assembly passed a harmonized N4.987 trillion budget for 2013, it is yet to transmit the complete document to President Goodluck Jonathan for assent. It was learnt the budget may be presented to the Presidency today. Daily Sun gathered at the weekend that the National Assembly joint committees on Appropriation spent last week fine-tuning the budget details and only concluded work in the early hours of Thursday.
The lawmakers had last month forwarded the approved new budget to the Presidency but without accompanying details. A source on the committee noted that it was the norm to send the details at a later date. Checks, however, indicate that the National Assembly missed the January 9 deadline to transmit the complete budget to the President “because it just wasn’t ready then, owing to alleged undue interference.”
But some National Assembly sources disclosed that lawmakers were angry at “the level of interference with the budget which made the work on the details progress slowly. The fact is that the power of appropriation does not lie with the Appropriation Committees in both houses. “We will just allow sleeping dogs lie so that they can transmit at the earliest possible time so that Nigerians will not blame the National Assembly for the delay in getting a new budget.
“In the course of our work on the budget details, we discovered lots of inconsistencies but we decided to shake off the interference and even overlook the inconsistencies.” Further checks, however, revealed that although the joint committees worked together on the budget details, the final, approving authority on the document resides with the National Assembly leadership, the Senate and the House of Representatives Committees on Appropriation worked together but when it came to ironing out the budget details, the crucial meeting was between the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate committee; as well as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the House of Representatives committee.
“After they had agreed, they met with the leadership of both houses and submitted the budget to them. They, in turn, scrutinized the complete document. “Thereafter, it would be transmitted to the President. We have concluded work on the budget and sent it to the leadership. The last we heard is that it may be transmitted to the Presidency anytime from today,” it was learnt. Chairman, Senate Rules and Business Committee, Ita Enang, however, said yesterday that President Jonathan would get the same budget that was passed and approved by the National Assembly last month.
“The budget that would be forwarded to the President is the version passed by the National Assembly last year. There is no amendment. The Senate has not sat since then. All we passed was the harmonized version of what both houses approved on December 20.” He declined comments when asked whether the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would be allocated funds in the 2013 budget.