*It is emergency expenditure -Yakubu
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
The National Assembly yesterday raised eyebrow over the decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to embark on extra budgetary spending amounting to over N503 million naira.
This discovery was made by the National Assembly joint committee on INEC during the 2019/2020 budget defence session by the commission before the committee.
Honourable Ibrahim Babangida, from Katsina, fired the first salvo when he asked the INEC chairman, Yakubu Mahmud, to explain why the commission will unilaterally choose which of the budgetary item to effect extra budgetary spending.
He emphasized that such practice is in contradiction of the 1999 Constitution which says no money should be spent besides what has been appropriated by the National Assembly.
This query was taken higher when the Honourable Fred Agbedi, representing Bayelsa state in the House of Representatives, asked the INEC chairman to quote to the committee the extant laws on which he relies to spend money beyond appropriation.
He said despite the emergency necessitating the commission to spend money beyond appropriation, such extra budgetary spending should be done when there is a virement approval to the commission by National Assembly.
He further lamented that even after such funds has been spent, the commission has not communicated to the National Assembly through virement request.
Some of the areas where such extra budgetary expenditure was observe by the committee are: security services in which N150 million was appropriated but the sum of N194.8million was spent by the commission.
Also, N100,000,000 was budgeted for office rent by National Assembly for the commission but the commission spent N232.1million, just as it spent N440.8million for General Services, whereas the National Assembly budgeted N342,000,000, among other such extra budget spending.
In his defence, the INEC chairman said the spending was based on emergency situations and in line with the independence of the commission to carry out its responsibilities.
Meanwhile, the commission boss had told committee that the commission will combine the Kogi West and governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa state, adding that such will save the commission about N500 million.
He said the Kogi West will cost the commission about ten million, while a Bayelsa constituency bye election will cost the commission next to nothing because the election will be conducted same day with the governorship polls slated for November 16 with same ballot boxes and material.
Speaking on the personnel of the commission, the INEC boss said they are not yet on the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS), saying that are still waiting for circular to guide them on how it should be implemented in the commission.
Earlier in his remarks, the chairman of the National Assembly joint committee asked the commission to always comply with request from lawmakers to submit their budget details.
He further asked the commission to immediately commence the deregistration of political parties who fails to meet up with the constitutional requirements of winning election.
He lamented that despite the constitutional conditions, the Commission still parade about 92 political parties, saying the committee wants clarification on that. He asked that the list of such parties should be sent to the committee for necessary actions.