Okonjo-Iweala broke the law – House of Reps

by Isi Esene

The spat between the House of Representatives and the Executive arm of government continues to linger with the House firing another shot the Executive’s way.

The House yesterday faulted claims purportedly made by the minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela’s that 56 per cent of the 2012 Budget has been effectively implemented. The House put the implementation figure at 34 per cent.

The House of Representatives spokesman, Zakari Mohammed, who read from a prepared statement titled: “2012 Budget, Non-Implementation: Okonjo-Iweala Should Address the Real Issues,” said the briefing was meant to clarify some misinterpretations from the minister’s recent media briefing on the implementation of the 2012 budget as reported by the media on Thursday July 26, 2012.

“First of all, it is not true that the executive arm has implemented as at today 56 per cent of the 2012 budget as widely reported. In truth, about 34 per cent of the budget has been implemented. What the minister admitted to as can be confirmed from her own words is that, at best Government has implemented 56 per cent of the N404bn released to MDAs.

“The Minister was clear in saying that, of this amount (N404bn) only N324bn has so far been cash backed. In other words, it is only N324bn that is available to the MDAs for implementation of capital projects and programmes of government out of about N1.5trn appropriated for all capital expenditure. The House of Representatives also does not agree with the Honourable Minister that the slow pace of implementation of the 2012 budget is as a result of the constituency projects introduced into the budget by the National Assembly.

“For the avoidance of doubt, constituency projects represent less than 10 per cent of the 2012 capital budget. How can this be the reason for the slow implementation of the budget? This excuse for non-implementation falls flat on its face when a review of the performance of the Executive on even its own preferred projects is made. More evidential is the fact that releases so far made to the MDAs are not enough to pay for on–going projects or projects chosen by the executive. For instance, out of a total appropriation of N145bn for the Ministry of Works in the budget, only N47bn has so far been released to the ministry. In the first quarter, N38bn was released and in the second quarter only N9bn was released, with a shortfall of about N30bn for the 2nd quarter.

“The projects that need these appropriations are core road projects scattered all over the country.  Or are these inter-state highways and other strategic road projects also constituency Projects? Playing to the gallery by the executive arm will not change the facts of the situation.”

The House, through its spokesman, also disagreed with Okonjo-Iweala’s assertion that an 100 per cent budget implementation is impossible. He debunked this assertion with an analogy: “If you give your child an examination, when you see the result, you should be able the know if he/she has passed or not.”

He went on to accuse the finance minister of breaking the law by releasing funds for projects in a discretionary manner.

He said:

“It is not within her powers to pick and choose projects and programmes to fund as has been the case with the Appropriation Act 2012. Her piece meal and discretionary release of funds for projects contrary to the schedule approved in the Appropriation Act is unlawful. She is, in fact, apparently breaking the law. What the law requires the minister to do is ensure that all funds appropriated for projects within a particular quarter are released to all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, as at when due without preference.”

According to the Nation Newspapers, Mohammed warned the president to be careful of the kind of advice he gets from the minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and other “un-elected aides” which might end up jeopardizing the government’s transformation agenda.

The House is clearly on the offensive.

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