The Senate Committee on Appropriation on Monday gave the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, a clean bill of health on alleged insertions in budgetary provisions of some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
This is as it frowned at the shoddy implementation of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) based on a lack of records of verifiable beneficiaries.
The finance minister got her clearance on alleged series of paddings in the proposed N20.51 trillion 2023 budget from the Senate Committee on Appropriation when she appeared before the committee to make clarifications on the alleged insertions.
She expressed shock to the committee that some heads of agencies feigned ignorance of the sum in their budget during their interface with relevant committees for budget defence.
She explained that money was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), before the budget presentation itself by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, October 7, 2022.
“All the proposed budgetary sums like the N206 billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the N8.6 billion in the Ministry of Defence, N195.468 billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power, were all captured before the presentation by Mr President.
“Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of agencies selected for project execution for the sole purpose of transparency.
“The totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771 trillion.
“Had heads of the affected MDAs carried out thorough scrutinization of their approved budgetary proposals, the issue of insertion or budget padding wouldn’t have arisen at all.
“In fact after realisation of their mistakes, one of the ministers, the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magsshi has to apologise after feigning ignorance of N8.6billion in his Ministry’s budget during interface with Senate Committee on Defence,” she said.
Satisfied by her submission, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North), said the clarifications made by the Minister were well understood by all the committee members and commended her for ensuring transparency with capturing of such loans or grants in the national budget.
Earlier, at an interface with the Senate Ad-hoc committee on the uneven disbursement of N500 billion Development fund by the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, failed to supply the committee with verifiable evidence of beneficiaries of various intervention programmes of the ministry.
She said about 9.8 million pupils nationwide are already benefiting from the school feeding programme at the rate of N100 per meal, aside from beneficiaries of other clusters of the programme.
But the chairman of the Committee, Senator Sani Musa, and other members like Ayo Akinyekure, Uche Ekwunife, and Mathew Urhoghide, told the minister that her presentation and that of the Coordinator of the programme, Dr Umar Bindir, were beautiful on paper but lacked substance.
The implementation of the programme, according to them, is a nullity.
Consequentially, the Committee directed her to furnish it with the names of beneficiaries of different clusters of the programme, their contact address, telephone numbers on the basis of states, local government and wards within the week.
The minister promised the committee that all the information would be provided, but cautioned that the ministry believes in the policy of confidentiality and would not allow the details of the beneficiaries to go public.
ALSO READ FROM NAIJAONPOINT.COM.NG