Still in search of N1t 2016 capital votes releases in economy
Many are still in doubt that such a huge sum of money has actually gone into the implementation of key projects and programmes that is capable of affecting lives in positive ways and yet they are yet to feel the change. The pessimism is hinged on the poor infrastructure outlay across the length and breadth of the country.
By end October last year, the Budget Office of the Federation declared that government had released the sum of N635.770b fully cash- backed to some 697 agencies of the Federal Government out of the approved N1.587t capital votes component of the N6.06t fiscal plan for the year.
However, the amount released was not attached to specific projects so that Nigerians can know which projects the said amount was spent on.In the same vein, the Budget Office of the Federation in its latest Second Quarter Capital Budget 2016 just released, is silent on specific projects for which funds had been released to aid citizens’ tracking.
Like in the first quarter report of that year, released around February of this year, this report unlike the ones in the preceding administrations is silent on projects been undertaken, as well as, the allocations released for them, their implementation statutes and even pictorial presentations, as well as, historical information of the projects.
The report only talked about funds released to agencies without citing specific projects. This makes it difficult for citizens to track the projects implemented.According to the report obtained by The Guardian, covering funding and implementation activities of the fiscal plan of last year’s second quarter, which is utterly in default of the 2007 Fiscal Responsibility Act, the sum of N243.66b was released to the MDAs for the implementation of projects captured for the first and second quarters respectively, excluding the releases made to statutory transfers, amounting to N113.01b in the second quarter.
The report presented a select few agencies of government and spotlight their implementation records for the quarter, just as it was silent on the projects for which funds were released to the agencies.
The few agencies the report listed and their implementation activities included, the Federal ministry of Works, Power and Housing, where it said for the period under review a total amount released to it was N117.953b, which was fully cash- backed, with utilisation at N73.876b representing a percentage of 62.63 percent.
Also listed is the Federal Ministry of Transportation – which by then had received the sum of N1, 598b and equally undertaken 100 per cent utilisation of the amount released to it. The National Sports Commission was also listed as having had the sum of N835.899m released to it, while it utilised the sum of 834.817m representing utilisation rate of 99.38 percent. The last agency that was listed is the Head of Service, which the report said received N200.910m and utilised N144,992m representing 73.66 per cent.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun who revealed that capital votes releases for the first time in the country has reached a record N1t failed to mention the agencies of government or key projects for which the releases were meant to address, apart from the raillway projects
According to her: “Capital releases to Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for the 2016 budget, have reached a record N1t, the highest ever budgetary releases in Nigeria’s annual funding for capital projects. So far, N1t has been released on capital and this is the highest so far in the history of this country. With the current stability in oil price and the return of normalcy in Niger Delta, I am sure we will do more this year 2017,” she said.
The amount was released for various projects, including the commencement of the construction of a dual standard railway line that would link Lagos and Kano, rehabilitation of roads, expanding irrigation facilities to boost agriculture and the upgrading of aviation infrastructure throughout the country.
She said that the components of the releases, include aggregate releases to the MDAs of N870, 055, 792, 283.00b as at the end of February 2017 and additional releases of N65, 393, 920, 000b. Others were Manual Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIEs) in February 2017 in the sum of N11, 179, 173, 711.42b and an additional Manual AIEs worth N45, 804, 709, 077.20bn as at March 13, 2017.
Adeosun noted that the overall capital releases totaling N992, 433, 595, 071.42b have made impact on the Nigerian economy, by creating jobs, stimulating economic activities in communities and upgrading infrastructure, thereby improving the wellbeing of Nigerians.
It could be recalled that in the Federal Government’s drive to devote more resources to capital projects, especially the upgrading of the country’s infrastructure, the Federal Executive Council at its meeting on March 22, 2017, approved the reconstruction of 12 more major highways across the country at the contract sum of N80 billion.
Officials of the Ministries of Finance and those of the Budget and National Planning contacted over the development of non- specificity in releases and projects refrain from commenting.
An official of the ministry who asked not to be named said: “ You know that before now, the Budget Ministry was under the Finance Ministry. But now the roles have changed. While it’s the Ministry of Budget and National Planning Ministry that approves mandates for payment, the Federal Ministry of Finance is to carry out disbursement. Now, sometimes, the Budget Ministry would approve mandate for payments, and the finance Ministry would not have the funds to pay. That is why you hardly hear the Budget Ministers talking about releases because they would not know if the finance people have been able to carry out the payments.
“Again, it is difficult for the reports to capture projects statutes because the agencies doing the monitoring and evaluation are all interspersed between the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Monitoring and Evaluation Department of the Budget and National Planning Ministry, so it becomes difficult to know the status of projects, since they don’t undertake the evaluation of the implementation at the MDAs at the same time. But I believe, the whole essence is for the best interest of the country, hence its serving as a check and balance, particularly under the zero–based budgeting strategy that is being implemented.”
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