•Counters Adeosun over pending FG loan request    

From Fred Itua, Abuja

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has proposed that the 2018 budget be increased to N10 trillion given that executive may not implement more than 50 per cent of the 2017 budget.

Saraki made the remarks yesterday when the Senate considered the report of its joint committees on Appropriation and Finance on the implementation of the 2017 budget.

He said: “If the implementation of the 2017 budget is going to be 50 per cent, it means we should expect to have a budget of N10 trillion in 2018. I hope the executive takes note of that.”

The Senate has also countered the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, over claims that the National Assembly was yet to approve President Muhammadu Buhari’s borrowing plans needed to fund capital projects in the 2017 budget.

The upper legislative chamber said there was no pending loan request currently before it. It said all requests from President Buhari were approved before the National Assembly embarked on its annual recess in July.

Saraki who dismissed the allegation, said the claims by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Adeosun last Tuesday were false.

He said: “There are no requests before us about borrowing we have not approved. We approved all the requests before we went on break. I needed to make this explanation because of what the Minister of Finance said that the National Assembly was holding on to borrowing requests sent by the executive.”

Mrs Adeosun, had on Tuesday, while giving a report on the level of the implementation of the 2017 budget, before a joint committee of the Senate on Appropriation and Finance, claimed that the Federal Government cannot fund capital projects because the National Assembly was yet to approve borrowing plan requests from the President.

But Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje, countered her when he noted that the Senate was not in possession of any loan request from the executive, even as Adeosun blamed the low pace of the implementation of the budget on the non-approval by the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Senate has indicted some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government, claiming that they do not remit revenues generated into the Federation Account.

The claims were made in a report, presented by the chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Goje, on the level of implementation of the 2017 budget.

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Although he did not reveal the identities of the MDAs, he said the revenue leakages must be blocked and agencies involved sanctioned to guard against a repeat in the future.

President of the Senate, Saraki, who presided, urged the executive to ensure that the 2017 budget is implemented. He also warned against selective implementation of the budget.

Saraki said: “The executive must carry out the implementation of the budget in line with what is passed. It should not go about selective implementation of the budget. If they want to borrow, they should not hesitate to send their requests.

Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, in his remarks, said the virement request from the executive is unconstitutional and therefore urged the executive to either send a supplementary budget or wait till the next financial year to send a fresh budget.

He called on his colleagues to uphold the tenets of the constitution. He said: “Something has been disturbing me over our budget. I think this is the time to raise that issue. For me, virement is unconstitutional. We must uphold the constitution. When reforming the budget, we should take note of this. You can only spend money either through normal budget or through supplementary budget.

“This executive seems not to be interested in the process of budget. They prefer virement. The Appropriation Act is a law. We cannot just approve virement and it is not even in our constitution. We need to tell the executive that they can ask for a supplementary budget and not for virement. If the executive wants money in the future, they should come through a supplementary budget.”

Goje, had in a ten-point observations made by his committee, said: “The sum of N300 billion has been released for capital projects. Another N100 billion for Power, Works and Housing will be released in next week. The executive is awaiting the approval of National Assembly to borrow so that it can fund capital projects in the 2017 budget.

“The executive has decided to focus on priority projects instead of following what was passed by the National Assembly. There are efforts on ground to end the budget in December. That means, the executive wants to terminate the lifespan of the 2017 budget in December.

“Efforts are being made to have the 2018 budget laid this month so that implementation can commence in January. The executive intends to carry certain components of the budget over to 2018 budget. There are many revenue leakages where agencies are not remitting revenues to the Federation Account.”

In its recommendations, which were adopted by the Senate, the Goje-led committee proposed that “necessary steps should be taken to ensure that the executive does not embark on selective implementation of the budget.

“The executive must ensure that they implement 50 per cent of the budget. The 2018 budget should be passed when brought to the National Assembly without any delay.

“There are revenue leakages of operating surpluses that agencies are not remitting to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR). We should encourage the executive that all MDAs should be properly captured and catered for in the budget. The executive should be encouraged to block all leakages in all its agencies.”