Senate C’ttee queries N205m surplus in NEPZA budget
The Senate Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy has discovered a double allocation of N16 billion in the budget of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing after the allocation for the same item appeared in the budget of the power ministry, and that of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
A budget item of N4 billion allocated for Kashminbilla transmission, and N12 billion as counterpart funding for transmission lines and substation projects, appeared in the ministry and the TCN budget estimates for 2018 Appropriation bill.
Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi APC) who pointed out the double allocation, queried the Minister of State, Power, Mr. Mustapha Baba Shehuri, on why he was also presenting items on TCN budget.
“The N4 billion and N12 billion appeared on TCN budget when they came to defend their budget. On the transmission, you have a lump sum of N4 billion and another N12 billion. There seems to be a correlation between these two and the projects currently undertaken by TCN.
Is the ministry delving into what the company is doing or are you presenting the budget for the company? The TCN came and defended their own budget and these figures appeared on their budget estimates. Why are you presenting the same now?” he queried
Shehuri explanation that the budgets were the same, and that all the budgets presented by power agencies are contained in the power ministry’s budget estimates, did not assuage the senators.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, maintained that the ministry’s budget is completely different from that of the TCN.
“No minister, the figures are separate. We have the budget of TCN,” Abaribe said.
Senator Mustapha Bukar (Katsina APC) said the Kashimbilla budget has nothing to do with the ministry.
The lawmakers also queried other items in the budget estimate including a proposed N100 million for movement and standardisation of files in the Ministry of Power, a N284million estimate for programmes for promoting investment and development in the power sector, and a N250 million estimate for international and local forums investments.
Senator Clifford Ordia (Edo PDP), observed that N448 million was proposed for the purchase of motor vehicles, while another N200 million and N120 million, were also listed for vehicles, under different sub-headings.
“Which kind of vehicle are you purchasing? Are you saying you don’t have vehicles?, Ordia said.
Abaribe, also frowned at the absence of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, and ruled that the minister must appear during the defense of his ministry’s budgets.
“I would say that the absence of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola to today’s budget defence is deliberate. Now you can see the reason because what it means is that most of the information that we need to be able to properly scrutinize this budget was not provided,” he said.
“All that we are saying is just make it simple for clarity sake. For every budget item that you have for any of the project, it is necessary for us to know the cost of the project because merely, just saying we are putting certain amount of money does not give us any sense of pleasure. If there is variation then you can add that then we can know. So that we can track every money spent on that and all these things can be made clear by giving us addendum at the bottom of every presentation you are making,” Abaribe added.
Based on what it said were conflicting information, the committee rejected the budget of the ministry, and directed the officials to go and reconcile their figures before the next defense session.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment yesterday also queried a N205 million surplus discovered in the 2018 budget estimates of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), which the agency could not explain.
The surplus was included in the personnel cost of the agency.
The Managing Director of NEPZA, Mr. Jim Emmanuel, told the committee that the money is to be deployed towards salary arrears of some of the agency’s staff, but upon further queries, said the surplus was from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
“The surplus was not created by us but rather what was approved for us by the AGF office,“ Emmanuel said.
The committee members however disagreed with him on grounds that the OAGF makes its projections from the approvals submitted to it for personnel costs.
Senator Usman Bayero Nafada (Gombe APC) noted that while the agency has an appropriation of N638 million for its personnel cost in its 2017 budget, but has expended N505 million on the same item as at November 2017.
Nafada further observed that the agency had already proposed to increase its personnel cost in its 2018 budget estimates to N710 million, even though there is an obvious surplus of N122 million in its 2017 budget.
The committee members resolved to peg the personnel cost of the agency to N516 million for the 2018 budget, and moved the N205 million surplus to its capital budget.
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