The House of Representatives has expressed reservations at the capacity of the Federal Ministry of Finance to effectively drive the economy.

Its position was informed by the discrepancies discovered in documents presented to its ad hoc committee investigating the implementation of the capital component of the 2015 budget.

The public hearing, postponed twice due to the absence of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mrs Anastasia Daniel-Nwaobia, however, got underway yesterday despite her absence.

She was said to be on the entourage of President Muhammadu Buhari to France.

Agencies at the hearing included the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Budget Office, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF), Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) and National Planning Commission (NPC), among others.

Trouble began after the submission of the ministry by the representative of the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Aliyu Gusau, who is the director general, Budget Office.

He said the document was too ‘sketchy’ to be of any value to the committee.

The permanent secretary, in her presentation, said N3.45 trillion was budgeted for 2015 of which capital appropriation was N5579 billion.

“Of the amount, N194.492 billion was released as at September 15, representing 34.89 per cent of total releases.

“Of the N375.62 billion budgeted for statutory tranfer, N187 billion was released as at quarter two and N250.41 billion as at August 2015.

“Of N231.41billion Pensions budget, N149.92 billion was released as at the end of August 2015.

Public debt to GDP ratio as at 2013 was 10.82 per cent, and N882.122 billion appropriated for domestic and external borrowing was fully raised to finance the 2015 budget.

“External debt as at June 30, 2015, stood at $7.74 billion and $3.42 billion for states and the FCT; bringing it to $10.31 billion while Federal Government’s internal debt stood at $8.396 billion”.

Reacting to the presentation, the committee said the document lacked depth, while  figures in the submission of some invited agencies were contradictory.

Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Ahman Pategi said the sketchy nature of the permanent secretary’s presentation failed to give the true position of the implementation of the 2015 capital budget.

He noted that the presentation was silent on revenue accruing from oil while there was a need to know the shortfall from January to August.

Besides, he cited the shortfall recorded in non-oil revenue as contained in the document but  was short on explanations on month-by-month details.

He also said the presentation was vague on the nation’s debt profile and silent on the position of each sectors of the economy and how the government planned to liquidate it.

The chairman was also concerned about the inadequate presentation of most of the agencies, spanning January to June 2015, rather than from January to August 2015.

“My own of view of the presentation is that it is sketchy and does not give a holistic view for full understanding of what the 2015 budget implementation is all about.

“We had expected you to provide vivid insight into the regime of import duty waiver using explanatory notes to describe how what was done and why,” he said.

Members of the communittee, including Linus Okorie and Wale Oke said documents presented by the Ministry of Finance, the Budget Office and the OAGF lacked credibility.

Okorie, who said he had no confidence in the documents, noted that they were incomplete and contradictory.

To highlight the discrepancies in the documents presented by the Budget Office and the OAGF, Okorie observed a difference of N248 billion over projected revenue for 2015.

[quote_center]He also pointed out another N146.8 billion difference in figures presented by the two agencies on debt servicing.[/quote_center]

According to the lawmaker, who asked for clarification on the nation’s debt profile, the documents showed that N148 billion was overpaid for debt servicing.

In addition, Okorie pointed out the contradictions in the two documents concerning releases to the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P).

Okorie said while one document showed that the entire N21 billion SURE-P budget was released, another said only N14 billion was released and utilised.

On his part, Wale Oke, who later urged the Committee to adjourn the meeting for a week said the various documents failed show the capacity of the Federal government to implement the 2015 budget.

The Committee wondered why the Federal government had to borrow to fund non capital expenditure in addition to using local instruments to service its debt.

N882.1b has been fully borrowed and disbursed to the Consolidated Revenue Account to fund the 2015 budget deficit.

According to the committee, it is against the Fiscal Responsibility Act to borrow to fund projects that were not contained in the capital component of the budget.

The committee advised that an inter-ministerial group be constituted among the agencies to articulate the figures.

According to the Chairman, the opportunity given to the agencies to reconcile the books was not for connivance but to aid the committee in its findings.

The hearing was adjourned to next Tuesday.

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