Senate has stepped down consideration of the N10.509trillion revised 2020 budget forwarded to it for consideration by President Muhamnadu Buhari penultimate week over the omission of N186billion proposed for the health sector by the Budget Office.
The Budget Office is reported to have refused to capture the entire N500billion intervention fund for COVID-19 in the Appropriations Bill, but rather, captured only N314billion while the balance was omitted.
The upper legislative chamber had in giving the request expeditious consideration, carried out debate on general principles of the fresh proposal along with those of the also revised 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF and Fiscal Strategy Paper, FSP the very week they received them which led to passage of MTEF/FSP last week Tuesday.
But effort to receive report of the already considered revised 2020 budget from its Committee on Appropriations for possible passage suffered set back at yesterday’s plenary.
Trouble for the revised budget came when as listed on the Order Paper, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, called on the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Jibrin Barau (APC Kano North), to lay the report.
Senator Barau on the strength of recognition given to him for that purpose, stunned the Senate by informing his colleagues that refusal of the Budget Office to capture the entire N500billion intervention fund for COVID-19 in the Appropriations Bill.
According to him, while N314billion is captured as part of the intervention fund, the balance of N186billion proposed for health sector, was not captured.
“Upon making such observation at committee level, we quickly inform the budget office of the omission last week.
“Though the budget office as part of excuses given for the omission said since the entire N500billion was captured in the MTEF/ FSP documents already passed by the Senate, that there was no need for it to be fully captured in the budget.
“But we rejected that excuse in line with sections 80 and 81 of the 1999 Constitution which empowers the National Assembly to appropriate every single Kobo for the executive before spending.
“On the strength of our superior argument, the budget office admitted wrongness of the omission but promised to write a letter to us to be used as evidence of helping them to include it.
“But the expected letter never came till now, making us not to be ready for presentation of any report now.
“If by the end of today, the office still refuse to send the letter to us, we shall be left with no other alternative than to print out our report today based on proposals contained in the Appropriation bill for consideration in plenary tomorrow,” he said.
Angered by the development, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan said: “The Senate hereby advise those responsible for the budget documents and expected letter to do the needful without further delay. They need to be meticulous and responsible.
“The National Assembly cannot be a destination where lack of efficiency on somebody’s job would be entertained.
“If we put figures without documents, they will accuse us of padding. We must have the documents printed today unfailingly, lay it tomorrow and give it final consideration on Thursday”, he said.
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