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2018 Budget: NASS slams FG over non-submission of Finance Bill

While the nation awaits the passage of the 2018 Budget by the National Assembly, the Parliament on Tuesday accused the executive of failing to submit 2018 Finance Bill which is expected to accompany the budget proposal as requested by legislators.

The Finance bill is necessarily requested by the legislature to guide against revenue leakages and inconsistency in government fiscal policy.

Declaring open the 2nd Joint Public Hearing on the 2018 National Budget by the Joint Committee on Appropriation, the Chairman of the National Assembly and Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said the National Assembly observed that non-oil revenue performances have been impacted by policy inconsistencies and leakages.

He said: “Thus, in addition to our call for improved systems and processes to plug revenue leakages, we had required that the 2018 Budget proposal be accompanied by a 2018 Finance Bill (which has so far not been received by the National Assembly).

“Let me therefore use this opportunity to, once again, emphasise the need for the Finance Bill. We want government to show clarity and consistency in its policies and to see how these will square up to its financial projections for 2018”.

Saraki also expressed the concern of the legislature over the Federal Government-owned enterprises whose operating surpluses have always been significantly lower than projections.

He said over the years, the performance of independent revenues has fallen short by at least 50 per cent, prompting the setting of new agenda.

Saraki said: “While we work towards setting new performance standards for government corporations as well as developing stronger oversight frameworks to improve performance in independent revenues, we do expect more realistic projections of Corporations operating surpluses.”

The Senate president added that the Parliament acknowledged Nigeria’s huge infrastructural deficit, as well as the need to expand planned expenditure.

He, however, said that, “You will agree with me that, while it is important to achieve equity and balance in the spread of development projects around the country, we must also prioritise human capital development. It is in this vein that the National Assembly will prioritise expenditure on critical health and education facilities as well as soft infrastructure.

Saraki said the public hearing is a forum designed to bring together civil society and non-governmental organisations, as well as thought-leaders in the online and social media circle – and, of course, the Executive and Legislature – as an interactive session on the public Budget.

He said, “In the 8th National Assembly, we believe that the citizens, who we represent, are critical stakeholders in nation building. We promised, and were the first Nigerian legislature to make the civil society part of the budget process through the institutionalisation of the Public Hearing process as part of the Budget process. For the first time, civil society has a voice at the table, with regard to the Budget. Public Hearing on the Budget as part of the enactment process, has come to stay.”

The interactive session, Saraki stated, is intended to enable the lawmakers to consider fresh opinions, explore other dimensions and weigh new perspectives on the 2018 Federal Budget proposal. He said the process is critical for a successful implementation of the Budget.

Also speaking on the importance to which the 8th National Assembly attached to the public hearing, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, said the parliamentary approval of the budget is the exclusive right of the legislature, hence the choice of making the process participatory through the public hearing.

Dogara said, “No amount of blackmail will force us to abandon our legislative assignment”, adding that there must be strict accountability by all concerned with budget execution.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, said in his welcome address that the main objective of the hearing “is to ensure an inclusively active stakeholders participation in the processing of the 2018 budget which is a line expression of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan ERGP (2017-2020) of the Federal Government.

“The hearing is also an entrenched part of the 8th National Assembly legislative agenda of openness in governance and public sector matters because the people we represent deserve to know and should know how our commonwealth is distributed,” he added.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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