The Federal Government on Monday said that the insistence of new members of the National Assembly to initiate constituency projects in their names, rather than continuing with projects in the names of the their predecessors, had been hampering implementation of the 2012 budget.
The government also said the various deductions it made from the budget had made it difficult to respond to emergencies such as Boko Haram insurgencies, fire disasters and auto crashes.
Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, made the submission while briefing State House correspondents shortly after he presented a report to President Goodluck Jonathan on the implementation of the 2012 Budget by his ministry.
The implementation of the 2012 Budget has been a subject of controversy between the Executive and the Legislative arms of government with the House of Representatives threatening to begin impeachment proceedings against the President if he fail to implement the budget 100 per cent by September.
Chukwu said most of the lawmakers’ constituency projects which fell under his ministry like building of new primary health care centres were being handled by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.
He said since the procurement process required that there must be designs for the projects before the bidding process could start and contracts awarded, it would take a long time for construction to start.
He said that was why the President was of the view that rather than initiating new projects, lawmakers should allow the government to concentrate on ongoing ones and finishing them in record time.
He said, “You cannot bring up procurement for construction if there is no design. So these things take time and many people have said if even you remove human factors, if you just follow the main Procurement Act, just to get that design will take you between 12 and 14 weeks.
“So you can understand why a budget that started being implemented in May as of July you may not have got to the stage of awarding contracts.
“There are constituency projects that have not been completed; if you rather insist that we do new projects obviously there will not be enough money to complete those other previous constituency projects that are there.”
Also, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Monday again spoke on the controversy over the 2012 budget implementation, submitting that the government would not toy with public funds.
The minister, who explained the slow release of funds for capital projects, said that the budget was being implemented in a manner that would enhance the best interest of Nigerians.
The minister’s comment is coming barely 24 hours after the House of Representatives faulted her claim that the 2012 budget had achieved 56 per cent implementation rate.
The Information Committee Chairman of the House, Zakari Mohammed, had noted that only N324bn of the N404bn released so far for capital project had been cash-backed in July.
He said, “This was the grouse of the House. We are in the seventh month, going to the eighth month of the year; out of N1.5tn, you have cash-backed only N324bn. That is not good enough; that is the point that is being made. The budget performance is not encouraging.
“It is not true that the Executive arm has implemented as of today 56 per cent of the 2012 budget as widely reported.”
But in a statement issued by her Senior Special Assistant on Communications, Mr. Paul Nwabuiku, the minister explained that her objective was to ensure a prudent management of the Federal Government budget.
The statement said, “Nigerians should be reassured that the 2012 budget is being managed in a way that protects and enhances the best interests of the country.
“Responding to concerns raised in some quarters recently, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stated that transparency and prudence remain the key priorities of the Federal Government in the management of the 2012 budget.
“Our objective is to achieve both higher budget implementation and better management of the country’s resources. We will not toy with public resources because they belong to all Nigerians”.
The minister explained that the improvement in implementation ratio from 39.2 per cent by the end of May to 56 per cent utilisation of cash-backed resources by June 20 was made possible by the direct leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan who was personally leading the drive for better budget performance.
The statement added, “She expressed confidence that there will be further improvement in the level of implementation before the end of the year.
“The minister emphasised that to maximise results, the ministry is careful and methodical in releasing funds to Ministries, Departments and Agencies. She stressed that given the rate of utilisation, there is still room for more implementation.
“She reiterated that the Federal Ministry of Finance is not holding any budgeted funds back and that more releases of funds will be made in the near future.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Appropriation has invited Okonjo-Iweala over the implementation of the budget. The minister is to appear before the committee on Tuesday (today) though the Senate is on recess.
Clerk of the Committee, Innocent Mebiri, confirmed the meeting with the minister but he refused to give details about it.
“We have not summoned anybody; it is simply an invitation for the usual interaction,” Mebiri said.
The upper legislative chamber had said recently that it had no hand in the impeachment threat against the resident by the Reps.
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