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Published On: Tue, Apr 2nd, 2019

Budget: Senate accuses finance ministry of favourism in funds allocation

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By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu

Senate Committee on Finance said it has uncovered how the Federal Ministry of Finance favored itself in the 2018 and 2019 budget by releasing more funds to itself and other parastatals under it, despite the paucity of funds in the country.
The senate committee observed that this paucity of funds resulted in other ministries, departments and agencies of government getting less than 40 percent of their budget released to them, especially in capital and overhead costs.
To this end, members of the Senate Committee on Finance yesterday grilled the heads of the Federal Ministry of Finance for high budgetary releases to itself and some of its parastatals and amid complaints of paucity of funds by other government institutions.
Members of the Senate Committee on Finance raised the question when officials of the ministry appeared before them to defend their 2019 budget proposals.
According to its budget performance report for 2018, the ministry has so far recorded 76 per cent overall performance in terms of fund releases in the outgoing fiscal year.
A breakdown of the figures, presented by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, indicates that personnel cost has got a cash backing of 89 per cent; overhead, 62 per cent, and capital allocation, 81 per cent.
The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, which is under the ministry, has also enjoyed high releases in the outgoing fiscal year.
The report as presented by the Accountant General, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, gives a total release of N4.386 billion as at March, representing 84 per cent of the N5.222 billion appropriated to it.
This did not go down well with the Chairman, Sen. John Enoh, and other members of the committee.
They sought to know why the ministry released more money to itself while other MDAs were complaining of poor releases.
The lawmakers also drew attention to “poor utilisation” of the funds released to the ministry and parastatals in the year under review.
For instance, the senators noted that whereas N667 million was released to the ministry for capital projects, only N209 million or 31 per cent had been utilised.
A similar situation played out in the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) which got N192 million for capital projects, but had spent only N11 million or six per cent.
Responding, the Minister rather gave the total performance of the Federal Government’s 2018 budget.
According to her, personnel budget recorded an average of 100 per cent due to “payment of salaries and pensions as and when due”.
“For overhead, out of 12 months we were only able to release eight months with the exception of some critical agencies like the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the Unity Schools.
“We prioritised their releases so they had more than eight months, because of payment of corps members’ allowances in case of the NYSC, and feeding of prisoners for the prison service,” she said.
The minister added that some military agencies “performing critical functions that must not stop” also had more than eight months.
Blaming the partial releases on poor revenue generation, she said the average revenue performance at the close of 2018 was 55 per cent.
“Because of that, we were not able to fund the budget as we would have loved to, and therefore impossible to say some agencies’ budgets would get 100 per cent cash backing,” she added.

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