The House of Representatives has directed the Ministries of Finance and Budget to reconcile the miscalculated figures in the 2019 budget. The House discovered the miscalculations during the second reading of the 2019 Appropriation Bill on Wednesday, and ordered the ministries involved to reconcile the figures latest by Thursday (today).
The error was identified by a member, Mr Abubakar Adamu, who pointed at the errors in the figures of the ministries of finance, education; budget and national planning; as well as the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
He said, “I want to, before my contribution, raise some issues, particularly some errors I noticed in the national budget. As everybody knows, the schedule in the budget consists of part ‘A’ which is the statutory transfers, and part ‘B’ which is the Debt Servicing, part ‘C’ which is the recurrent expenditure and part ‘D’ which is the capital expenditure.”
The lawmaker noted that in the Ministry of Education, the recurrent expenditure which consisted of both the personnel and overhead cost, was N462.2bn. He stated that under the summary of the budget by the MDAs, (line item Number 410518), the figure had changed to N539bn. “I don’t know what figure was added at that level,” he stated.
He also cited the example of the ministry of finance where the recurrent expenditure was N10.8bn, under which personnel was N7.4bn. He however said the overhead had changed to N2.26bn, with the total (of personnel and overhead) put at N2.27bn, which he faulted.
Adamu further said, “In the ministry of budget and planning, in the part ‘C’ is N9.3bn, but when you go to the summary by MDAs, which is number 280238, personnel has now become N66.21bn. Then, overhead also changed there; it has now become N832.2bn. Then the total, which is personnel and overheard, in that aspect has now become N1.49bn. “The capital also has changed to about N655.9bn, indicating that a total allocation of the Ministry of Budget and Planning, instead of N9.3bn, has now become N2.15tn.”
Dogara, who was surprised by the discovery, asked another lawmaker, Mr Aliyu Ahman-Pategi, if the issues raised by Adamu were valid, which he confirmed. Ahman-Pategi said, “If you look at the budget; in the budget of the Ministry of Finance, the detail of overhead, salary and all that, is correct. But in the summary detail on the right side column, that is where the mistake was made.”
After Dogara sought further clarification, Ahman-Pategi said, “Anytime we discover it (error), they (executive) can attend to it. We know that what we are discussing are the general principles. It (budget) will still get to the committee level and all those can be done. As for the ministry, we can get the leadership – the Minister of Finance – and the Chairman of Finance and Chairman of Appropriations to liaise with these three bodies: the Budget Office (of the Federation), the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the Ministry of Finance.”
As the lawmaker was speaking, Adamu walked up to the Speaker with a copy of the bill to show him the errors. He was followed by Gbajabiamila; the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Edward Pwajok; and the Clerk to the House. They held an emergency meeting that lasted for about 10 minutes.
After the meeting, Dogara admitted that there were irregularities in the figures but the lawmakers would continue with the debate, focusing only on the general principles of the budget.
The Speaker said, “After consultations by the leadership, even though it is apparent on the surface of the budget that there are so many irreconcilable differences in the figures allotted, basically we are discussing the general principles of the budget by virtues of the provisions of our rules at this time. So, we will talk about general principles at this time.
“I am sure we are not concluding the debate today (Wednesday). I will direct relevant committee chairmen to liaise with the ministries of finance and the budget and national planning, to ensure that by tomorrow, before we conclude the debate on the budget, we have the reconciled figures.
“So, for today, I want to admonish and plead with us to make sure that we confine ourselves to the general principles of the budget. I am by this announcement drawing the attention of the Ministries of Budget and National Planning; and Finance to the irreconcilable differences in the figures allotted in the budget. And, unfailingly, by tomorrow, if we must continue the debate on the budget, they must give us reconciled figures.”
Continuing with the debate, Adamu, among other issues, pointed out that while 2019 budget predicated on oil production of 2.3 million barrels per day, at $60 per barrel, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries had cut Nigeria’s oil output to 1.68mbpd.