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N’Assembly to amend fiscal law over N5.196 trn budget deficit

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National Assembly

Barely a month after passing the N13.588 trillion budget for 2021 financial year, with N5.196 trillion as deficit, the National Assembly is under pressure to speedily rejig the Fiscal Responsibility Act to boost the Federal Government’s capacity to fund the planned expenditure.

There has been controversy over the latest legislative intervention made by the National Assembly in empowering government through the Finance Act to manage unclaimed dividends and remnants of money in dormant customers’ accounts with banks.

When they resume from Christmas and New Year holiday next week, the two chambers will begin deliberation on a bill to amend the Fiscal Responsibility Act in such a manner that allows the Federal Government access to more revenue with which to finance most projects listed in the budget.

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In the 2021 budget, the National Assembly had approved N4.125 trillion for capital projects and N5.641 trillion for recurrent expenditure in addition to the N3.324 trillion approved for debt servicing.

The bill is seeking amendment to provide for prudent management of national resources, ensure long term macro-economic stability of the economy, secure greater accountability and transparency in Fiscal operations within the Medium Term Fiscal Policy Framework, and empower the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) to promote and enforce the nation’s economic objectives.

The bill, which has attracted meetings of relevant committees of the National Assembly, the FRC as well as interested non-governmental organisations, is meant to, among others, ensure increased remittances by revenue generating agencies, and reduce wastage and corruption in public finance management.

Confirming the commitment of the Senate to the proposed amendment, Chairman of Committee on Finance, Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, said the bill would empower FRC to efficiently implement provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

According to him, the National Assembly believes that an efficient and impactful FRC would be helpful in advancing the oversight function of the legislature.

The bill, according to the lawmaker, is based on the need to give teeth and bites to FRC to empower and enable it enforce the spirit and letters of the law enacted in 2007.

Another member of the committee said: “The urgency of these amendments is underscored by the current state of affairs of the country’s economy, which is in a second recession in four years. It is imperative to note that the salient proposals contained in the bill present antidotes to the quagmire.”

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