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Speaker Dogara Laments President’s Failure to Assent to Bills Stopping late budget presentation

by / Wednesday, 27 March 2019 / Published in Blog, Latest posts

Speaker Dogara Laments President’s Failure to Assent to Bills Stopping late budget presentation

….Budgets Will Continue To Perform Badly Unless It Passes Integrity Test

…Reps to pass budget on resumption of plenary.

The national budget will continue to perform abysmally until it passes the integrity test where national values and priorities of Nigerians are reflected in its preparation, as against the present practice where only the values and priorities of the drafters of the budget are reflected, speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has said.

He also condemned the hypocrisy behind producing a budget that, right from its preparation, is headed for failure in both planning and execution while explaining that the National Assembly organises public hearings on the budget to make the process more inclusive and transparent, and to allow all stakeholders participate in the making of the money bill.

Hon Dogara, who was making remarks at the opening of the 2019 national budget hearing organised jointly by the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the National Assembly, also disclosed that the House of Representatives plans to pass the budget upon resumption from its suspension of plenary activities.

He stated, “Over the years, the main problem with our budget as submitted by the Executive is that it does not reflect National values and priorities. The budget, more often than not, only reflects the values and priorities of those who help the president in drafting it. The integrity of the project selection process has always being the bane of our national budgets. I regret to say that until we eliminate these problems, we will always have non implementable national budgets which cannot be relied upon by policymakers in establishing spending priorities.

“It is very painful that for some years now, our budget process has been an exercise in either or a combination of audacious optimism and/or hypocrisy involving key actors putting together a budget that they fully know will at best be implemented up to 45% which is by all standards below average. How many of us will be proud of a child who consistently performs below average in his exams? How many of us here are proud of our below average budget performance all these years? Our below average budget performance is the main reason why Nigeria has remained a major promise as our national potentials cannot be released without effective budget planning and execution.”

The speaker also disclosed how the presidency has consistently frustrated attempts by the legislature to make the Budget more effective, including declining assent to a Constitutional amendment Bill which sought to compel the Executive to submit the Budget proposals to the National Assembly not later than 90 days to the end of the fiscal year and also to limit expenditure that can be incurred in the absence of the Appropriations Act from six (6) months to three (3) months and the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) establishment Bill which was closely modeled after the American Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

“Consequently , efforts to enact a Budget Process Bill which will spell out timelines for every activity concerning the budget is stalled because it would be ineffective to enact a law that will run contrary to Section 81(1) of the Constitution which allows the President to submit the Budget estimates, “AT ANYTIME” before the end of the financial year,’ he added.

Also at the event, Hon Dogara again stressed that by Nigeria’s constitutional design, the president’s role in drafting the budget estimates cannot be assailed but the “power of the purse” is the function of the Legislature, including the fact that expenditure can only be made in consequence of express legislative authorisation and the authority to create and collect taxes, borrow or raise money through loans when the need arises.

“The budget is the most important law that is passed yearly, consequently, no parliament any where in the world rushes it. Let me re-emphasize that this Parliament can never be a rubber stamp and neither are we prepared to surrender our constitutionally assigned rights of checks on the Executive. It is unfortunate, however, that many commentators always ignorantly accuse the National Assembly of delaying the Appropriations Bill as if we are meant to urgently rubber stamp whatever budget estimates that is submitted to us by the Executive. If we fail to scrutinize the budget proposals, it will not only amount to abdication of our constitutional responsibilities as legislators but a betrayal of the mandate of our constituents,” he explained, while absolving the National Assembly of blame in the delay of the passage of the budget.

But despite the late submission of the budget to the National Assembly “on December 19, 2018, just 12 days to the end of the year and the earliest time an Appropriation Bill has ever been presented to the National Assembly in this dispensation was on November 7, 2017”, the 8th National Assembly will “like to make haste slowly”, he stated, while charging heads of MDAs to help in this noble effort by making appearances, in good time, before their relevant committees to defend their estimates as some have started doing.

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