Barely 24 hours after signing the 2017 Appropriation Bill into law, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday in Abuja started preparatory activities for the 2018 budget based on the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
Anchored by the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the process is to ensure that the 2018 budget aligns with the provisions of the ERGP and is ready for presentation to the National Assembly by early October this year.
Osinbajo and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, who addressed ministers, permanent secretaries and head of government agencies, spoke of the need to reinvigorate the budget preparation process and ensure that the 2018 and subsequent national budgets were ready for implementation by January of each fiscal year.
Udoma said personnel budget call circular had been issued to those concerned since April and that work had already commenced on the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework/Fiscal Strategy Paper.
According to him, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 prescribes certain deadlines for budget-related activities, which the government must endeavour to comply with.
These objectives, he said, were particularly important, adding that “delayed national budgets are generally considered as indicative of poor public financial management, which is not good for the image of the government.”
Tuesday’s session, he explained, was aimed at sensitising all top government functionaries and other stakeholders to the ERGP implementation roadmap and the critical guidelines for the preparation of the 2018 budget.
This, he added, would help to ensure that the 2018 budget was fully aligned with the ERGP.
Osinbajo, on his part, expressed disappointment over the inability of the National Assembly to pass the 2017 budget on time despite the fact that it was sent by the Executive to the lawmakers in December last year.
He also faulted the insertion of new projects into the budget by the National Assembly, noting that this had left an unanswered question as to who was to do what when on the issue of budget preparation.
Osinbajo said, “This last budget, the President presented it last December. Despite the assurances that it would be passed in by February, it was not until May. As it turned out, we were quite disappointed that it spent a bit of time before it was approved. And, thereafter, we had to go into negotiations with the National Assembly in order to get it right.
“There are issues about who can do what. Now, there are these two broad issues about who can do what. The first report is about who can do what. When you present a budget to the National Assembly, it is presented as a bill, an appropriation bill.
“And secondly, do not introduce entirely new projects and all of that or modify projects. This is something that we experienced last year and this year again. It now leaves the question about who is supposed to do what.”