The Federal Government on Thursday released N300bn for capital projects for the third quarter of the year.
The N300bn, according to the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, brings the total release for capital projects so far to N704bn under the 2012 national budget. She said this at a media briefing in Abuja.
The amount was part of the capital votes of ministries, departments and agencies. The budget has a N1.5tn provision for capital projects.
Members of the House of Representatives had asked the President to achieve 100 per cent implementation of the budget before September 18 or face impeachment proceedings.
Before resolving to issue an ultimatum to the President, the House had in its July 19 sitting condemned the poor implementation of the 2012 budget, lamenting that as of July the budget had achieved a mere 34 per cent performance.
Our correspondent says the release of the N300bn was mostly likely an attempt by the administration to stave off impeachment. The amount is significantly higher than the budget releases for each of the first two quarters of 2012.
Reacting to the new release of funds from Saudi Arabia where he had gone for the lesser hajj, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Zakari Mohammed,on Thursday, said, “It is in order.”
Asked whether the release would soften the hearts of the Reps against the President, the Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Leo Ogor, told The PUNCH, “Definitely.”
But Okonjo-Iweala while addressing journalists in Abuja on Thursday explained that the budget was being managed in a way that would enhance the best interest of Nigerians.
The minister said that a lot of progress had been made in the utilisation of the capital votes by MDAs.
For instance, she said that as of June, only 56 per cent of the N404bn that was released at that time was utilised by the MDAs.
This, she noted, had increased to 65.4 per cent as of the end of July.
She added that the ministry had observed a remarkable increase in the utilisation rate of the capital votes of MDAs and that with the N300bn that was released, Nigerians would begin to see a remarkable improvement in capital projects.
The minister said, “As of the end of June, utilisation by the various MDAs of the N404bn was 56 per cent. Now as of the end of July, it was 65.4 per cent utilisation and this is the number we are happy to give to you. The MDAs have stepped up their utilisation rate.
“We had earlier released N404bn, with this additional N300bn, that brings us to N704bn which is about 53 per cent of the annual capital budget of N1.36tn.
“We should note that based on what we had released before which was N404bn, utilisation of that had got up to 56 per cent at the end of June. And on top of that, we are now releasing this additional N300bn for the third quarter.”
Okonjo-Iweala stated that transparency and prudence remained the key priorities of the Federal Government in the management of the 2012 budget. She expressed satisfaction with the performance of the budget which she said was not surprising because last year’s budget was extended till March 31st this year.
She, however, assured that with the early commencement of budget 2013, its implementation would end by December 2013.
The minister also disclosed that salaries were being paid as of when due, adding that all federal civil servants were expected to receive their August salaries by today (Thursday) to enable the Muslims to have their salaries for the sallah celebrations.
In moving against the President over the alleged poor implementation of the budget in July, the House had noted that only N324bn of the N404bn released so far for capital projects had been cash-backed in July.
The House spokesman had 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.”
Similarly, the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government had been passing the buck of the poor performance of the 2012 budget to the Minister of Finance, accusing her of reluctance to release adequate funds to finance capital projects.
The agencies had complained that although some funds were released, they were insufficient for the award of contracts as required by the Public Procurement Act.
The PUNCH had on August 7 reported that discreet complaints by top government officials to the lawmakers had initially triggered the anger of the House against the President.
Ogor noted that the N330bn release was a “demonstration that Jonathan is prepared to collaborate with the legislature for the overall good of the country.”
He said, “It is a step in the right direction that they are releasing funds for capital projects. The capital budget is the budget of the people; that is how they get infrastructure and social amenities, not recurrent budget.
“We are not asking them to give us contracts; our demand is that they should execute capital projects so that our people can feel the impact of government.”
He added that the House was not fighting the President but that “we are only performing our constitutional duties of pointing out errors when things are not going the right way.”