By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Christiana Ekpa
The Senate Committee on Trade and Investment yesterday uncovered plans of the management of the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) to include in the agency’s 2018 budget for personnel, extra N205million.
The committee said the agency had succeeded in doing so in its 2017 budget where it allegedly padded the personnel budget with N122million.
This revelation emerged yesterday when the Managing Director of the agency, Hon Jime Emmanuel and his top officials appeared before the senate committee for their 2018 budget defence and presentation of details of implementation of the 2017 budget.
Specifically, a member of the committee, Senator Usman Bayero Nafada ( APC Gombe North) took up the management of the agency on why they requested for N638m for personnel cost in their 2017 budget out of which N505m has been used for salary payment uptill November.
He said based on the N505m already used by the agency to pay salaries of its workers up to November , only N11m is needed by it for December salary and not the N133m remaining.
Senator Nafada went further to draw the attention of the committee members to a proposal already made by the agency to hike its personnel cost in the 2018 budget to N710million.
According to him, if in 2017, NEPZA is having excess of about N122m on pwrsonnel cost out of the N628million released, why requesting for N710 million in 2018 which if given , would result in surplus of N205million.
“This is unacceptable and should not be allowed to scale through by this committee by reappropriating the excess money to other budgetary items like overhead or capital “, he said.
When the chairman of the committee , Senator asked NEPZA MD to explain the surplus, he couldn’t convince the senators with his explanations anchored on promotion arrears for some staffers of the agency upon which he blamed everything on the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
“The surplus was not created by us but rather what was approved for us by the AGF office “, he said .
But the the committee faulted his argument by telling him that the AGF office works on projections and approvals forwarded to it as far as personnel costs are concerned.
Consequently, it resolved to limit the personnel cost of NEPZA for the 2018 budget to N516m by taken the excess of N205m to capital votes since the agency in the place is expected to fund its overhead budget with internally generated revenues ( IGR).
Other highlights of the agency’s 2018 budget estimates are the N52bn projected for capital votes out of which only N2.5billion was released in the N48billion appropriated for in the 2017 budget.
Meanwhile the committee has directed the agency to furnish it with details of N500m consultancy fees to four different firms that gulped its released capital votes in the 2017 budget.