Exclusives

UPDATED: Buhari sends 2018-2020 MTEF for National Assembly approval

by KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja

October 17, 2017 | 5:47 pm
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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday broke age-long jinx by sending the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) to the National Assembly, barely three months to the end of the financial year.

Buhari in the letter dated 9th October, 2017 which was read by Speaker Yakubu Dogara during plenary session, explained that the MTEF and FSP documents were prepared in response to the global economic uncertainty and the fiscal challenge facing the country.

“Pursuant to provisions of the Financial Responsibility Act, 2007, the preparation towards the submission if he 2028 budget to the National Assembly is progressing well.

“The MTEF and FSP were prepared against the backdrop of a generally adverse global economic uncertainty; as well as fiscal challenges and recovery in the domestic economy to ensure that planned spending is set at prudent and sustainable levels and is consistent with government’s overall developmental objectives and inclusive growth,” the President noted in his letter.

The details of the MTEF/FSP was not available as at the time of filing this report.

Recall that the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed had during the just concluded National Economic Summit(#23NES) assured that the 2018 budget proposal will be presented to the National Assembly in October as planned.

That is what we said and we are still on course and target to do that, the budget is ready.

“It will be going to the Federal Executive Council first of all for approval before Mr President will convey it to the National Assembly. We are on course to deliver the 2018 budget in October.

We hope that working together with National Assembly, it will be passed on time in December so that in January, we will start a fresh budget going forward,” the Minister said.

Also at plenary, the House passed the N222,360,551,512 budget proposal for Federal Capital Territory (FCT) through second reading.

The FCT budget was presented to the House, 75 days to the end of 2017 financial year.

Leading the debate, Femi Gbajabiamila, Majority Leader explained that N52,574,479,667 is for personnel costs; N41,294,590,480 is for overhead costs whilst the sum of N128,491,481,366 is for capital projects.

Gbajabiamila who acknowledged the delay in the presentation of the budget, disclosed that the sum of N50 billion was earmarked for provision of infrastructure in satellite towns including rural roads and electrification projects.

“Health, education and water have also been adequately captured in this budget with huge sums of money allocated as an indication of this administration’s willingness to make life comfortable for citizens within the FCT,” Gbajabiamila said.

In a related development, Speaker Dogara who delivered a keynote address at a two-day summit on ‘Intergovernmental/Party Relations and the budget reform process for sustainable development in Nigeria’ harped on the need for Nigeria to develop reliable and comprehensive database on the socio-economic conditions of the country or a rigorous analytical framework for determining policy objectives.

Dogara who argued that the power of appropriation is vested in the Legislature, maintained that the National Assembly can alter proposals by the Executive in any manner it feels will be more beneficial to Nigerians.

“The budget is also a legitimate opportunity for the government to set its policy agenda and priorities. Thus, in almost all political systems, it is generally accepted that the Executive has the primary role in developing an annual budget and presenting it to the Legislature. However, the Legislature plays a more active role in shaping the outlines of the budget submitted to it by the Executive.

“In most presidential democracies, such as ours, the Legislature has the right to review, in some cases, amend, alter, approve or reject the spending plan proposed by the Executive.

“Suffice it to say that even in developed democracies, the Executive and legislative branches have traditionally struggled to find an equitable balance of power over financial matters.

“Over the years, the National Assembly and the Executive have often disagreed over basic and more fundamental issues ranging from the petroleum price benchmark for the budget and role of the National Assembly in amending or modifying budget proposals submitted by the Executive to reflect diverse national development requirements.

“Other subjects of contention include details of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), timeline for budget presentation, implementation status and legislative oversight of budgets. While some see Legislature-Executive conflict as a necessary and beneficial precondition to limiting and controlling government, others view it as contributing to gridlock over major public policy decisions, thus making government ineffective. I see it however as a healthy constitutional exercise, for public good. However, cooperation between the Executive and the National Assembly is not only necessary but unavoidable.

“These conflicts often stem from weaknesses inherent in the different stages of our budget process. At the formulation stage, there is no adequate provision for a fixed and realistic budget calendar as well as public participation in the budget process. Also, the budgeting system is characterised by a weak link between development plans and annual budgets, resulting in poor development outcomes. Fundamentally too, there is neither a reliable and comprehensive database on the socio-economic conditions of the country nor a rigorous analytical framework for determining policy objectives.

“Happily, in the last Constitution Alteration exercise, the National Assembly passed an amendment to S.81(1) of the Constitution which if ratified, will now require the President to prepare and lay the budget proposal before the National Assembly not later than 90 days before the end of each financial year rather than the current provision of laying it “at any time” in the financial year.

“Secondly, at the enactment stage, the process still appears haphazard with no definite timeline for the enactment of the Appropriation Bill.

“Finally, at the implementation stage, some of the weaknesses include the relatively low budgeted capital expenditure compared to recurrent expenditure. Capital budget implementation is still constrained by weak revenue base; untimely and irregular release of funds; preponderance of unplanned projects; weak implementation capacity on the part of MDAs; and weak budget monitoring by the Executive and sometimes weak legislative oversight.

“In the House of Representatives, we have shown our commitment to ensuring that the procedure and process of consideration and passage of the 2017 Budget was transparent, inclusive and professional. The details of the Budget was debated and passed in plenary to avoid unnecessary drawbacks that normally characterise the budget process, in Nigeria. That is why I personally sponsored a Budget Process Bill, to set out mandatory time-lines for all stakeholders in the budgetary process,” Dogara stressed.

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by KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja

October 17, 2017 | 5:47 pm
12893  |   93   |   0  |   Start Conversation

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