Okonjo-Iweala Appears At Senate Hearing, Clarifies Budget Figures

Okonjo-Iweala Appears At Senate Hearing, Clarifies Budget Figures

Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Thursday appeared before the Senate-Executive interaction on issues concerning the 2012 budget.

At the session, the minister gave the assurance that the implementation of the N1.3 trillion budget, which had been a sticky issue between the National Assembly and the Executive, was on course.

The minister said the implementation of the budget began in April 2012, adding that although the ministry should have released N446bn by now, only N404 billion had been released.

Okonjo-Iweala stated that so far, 56 percent of the capital budget had been utilised while 44 per cent was still outstanding. “There is more room for utilisation. Fifty-six per cent of the funds that has been released has been used, meaning 44 per cent is still available for implementation. The budget must work for Nigerians. They must feel the impact. That is our focus.

“We have been working collaboratively with the National Assembly. We have made sure that salaries have been paid and that we are meeting other obligations.”

The minister debunked an assertion by the House of Representatives that she lied to Nigerians on the implementation of the budget by claiming that government had achieved 56 per cent implementation of the appropriation Act.

The House had called her a liar on Wednesday at a briefing in Abuja after discovering from documents submitted to the Senate by the Federal Ministry of Finance that the performance of the budget as at July was a mere 12.6 per cent.

Responding to this assertion, she said, “I think that on the issue of budget execution, I have tried to be as clear as I possibly can. The appropriations bill there is N1.3 trillion. When you add the SURE programme, you get 1.5 trillion. Non-SURE P budget is N1.3 trillion.

“If you prorate the amount of budget, you will get a figure of about N113 billion per month. If you measure what’s been implemented over the entire budget, you get 13.7 per cent. But because we’re talking about four months, the implementation is 41 per cent.”

Okonjo-Iweala also pleaded that the execution of the budget should be kept within January-December, adding that the current practice of extending it to March of the following year should be discontinued.

She also said the ministry had been providing funds to Ministries, Departments and Agencies “in bulk,” noting that there had been no selection of projects.

“We release resources to MDAs in bulk. There is no discrimination. We don’t have a selective approach. Some of the constituency projects in the 2012 Budget are new and have not undergone the Proper Procurement Process, which takes time,” she noted.

She also said President Goodluck Jonathan had been leading the drive for higher budget performance.

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