Budget 2013: Fresh row breaks out between Senate and House of Reps

By The Nation

Nigerian Senate

Nigerian Senate

A fresh row has broken out between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the passage of the 2013 budget.

The Senate is ready to pass the budget before the end of the month, but the House of Representatives is insisting on full implementation of this year’s budget before passing the 2013 Appropriation Bill.

The House wants the Executive to extend the 2012 fiscal year to January for it to implement this year’s budget effectively.

Attempts to iron out the differences have not succeeded. The House is insisting that the execution of this year’s budget has not reached 65 per cent.

Besides, there are fears over the likely mismanagement of the fourth quarter allocation, which is just being released.

Only N170billion of the N300billion fourth quarter allocation has been cash-backed by the Ministry of Finance.

A principal officer of one of the chambers, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are back in the trenches, with the Senate and the House taking different positions on the passage of the 2013 budget.

“Although all members of the National Assembly are aggrieved over the poor implementation of this year’s budget, Senate President David Mark has urged committees to fast track the passage of the budget. He met with the chairmen.

“Mark, who admitted that the Executive has a lot of shortcomings on the implementation of this year’s budget, said the country has to move forward.

“So, the Senate has decided to pass the 2013 Appropriation Bill – in the interest of the nation and in line with the rectification of the appropriation calendar which will now run from January to December.”

Despite Mark’s intervention, the Northern Senators Forum on Tuesday night met in Abuja for about two hours on the budget.

It was gathered that most senators at the session were unhappy that the Executive had been misleading the nation on the percentage of the budget implementation for 2012.

It was learnt that the senators identified their grouses as follows: poor execution of the 2012 budget; non-release of funds for capital projects and mounting debts, which has risen to $10billions; among others.

A member of the Northern caucus, who spoke on the session by Northern Senators, said: “ We are all not happy at all with the Executive. We took note of the plea by the President of the Senate but we are watching what the House of Representatives will do. At the end of the day, we might pitch tent with the House members if they have convincing reasons.

“Do not forget that the two chambers must harmonise their positions before the budget can be passed.”

A principal officer of the House, who confided in our correspondent last night, said: “We won’t subject the House to the blanket passage of the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law.

“We want to measure significant implementation of the 2012 budget before passing the 2013 bill into law. We are calling for a window of one month to extend the fiscal year to January 2013 to monitor the use of the fourth quarter allocation and comprehensively evaluate the 2012 budget.

“If the Executive and the Senate can agree to one month extension of the fiscal year, we will pass the 2013 Appropriation Bill into law. At present, we have a situation whereby fourth quarter funds will go into unauthorised hands.

“While the fourth quarter allocation has not been fully released, the Executive just sent in a N162billion supplementary budget which is late in the day. How can the fiscal year end on December 31, 2012? Who will monitor the use of these funds? The funds may end up in private accounts of those milking the system. We want to assert our constitutional rights to appropriate and ensure judicious use of funds.

“There is no meeting point with the Senate on this extension of the fiscal year by one month.”

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