Senators, Reps face probe over illegal budget passage

Senators, Reps face probe over illegal budget passage

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts has confirmed the allegation by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), that some committees of the National Assembly are passing budgets for ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government illegally.

It was reliably gathered on Tuesday that the committee, after making the discovery, wrote to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, and the Clerk to the National Assembly, Amos Ojo, to confirm if Buhari actually transmitted the MDAs’ budget to the parliament or not.

The erring chairmen, who had been summoned by the committee earlier in the year, are billed to appear before the panel from this week.

The President is expected to transmit budgetary proposals of MDAs to the National Assembly, while the clerk transmits passed budgets to the Presidency for implementation.

However, Buhari, while laying the 2023 Appropriation Bill before a joint session of the National Assembly on October 7, 2022, slammed committees of the parliament who were bypassing him and approving budgets for government-owned enterprises without his approval.

The President had said, “Distinguished Senators, Honourable Members, you may recall that we earlier integrated the budget of Government-Owned Enterprises into the FGN’s 2019 budget submission. This has helped to enhance the comprehensiveness and transparency of the FGN budget. It has, however, come to my attention that Government-Owned Enterprises liaise directly with relevant NASS committees to have their budget passed and issued to them directly.

“I would like to implore the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure that the budget I lay here today, which includes those of the GOEs, be returned to the Presidency when passed.  The current practice where some committees of the National Assembly purport to pass budgets for GOEs, which are at variance with the budgets sanctioned by me, and communicate such directly to the MDAs, is against the rules and needs to stop.”

Chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts, Oluwole Oke, in an interview with our correspondent, said chairmen of the erring committees had been queried on why they passed the budgets illegally.

When asked why the chairman had yet to appear before the committee, Oke said, “We are just resuming now. I am sure from next week, you will start seeing them appearing.”

The chairman added, “Before Mr President made that submission, we had written the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Clerk to the National Assembly to show us proof that these agencies’ budgets passed through the normal legislative processes. The Public Accounts Committee (of the House) raised the alarm.”

Responding to a question on whether his committee would be thorough with the probe as fellow lawmakers were involved, Oke pointed out that the lawmakers on the panel were only accountable to Nigerians.

“The Public Accounts Committee is a committee created by the Constitution. Why wouldn’t we? We are accountable to Nigerians. If we were not going to be fair, do you think we would have raised the alarm or issue such a resolution?”

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