The House of Representatives during Wednesday’s plenary debate on the general principles of the Appropriation Bill discovered irregularity of figures in the 2019 budget.
The discrepancy in figures, gathered from the financial proposals of the respective ministries, the figures for various subheads did not tally with the total amount earmarked as the total budget of the agencies.
During plenary, Chika Adamu from Niger State discovered the discrepancies shortly after the Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, moved the motion for debate on the bill. Gbajabiamila and the Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, had taken turns to make contributions to the debate.
Adamu went further to craved the indulgence of the House over what he described as necessary observations in the budget estimates before formally advancing his personal views on the general principles of the bill, said: “I want to, before my contribution, raise some issues, particularly some errors I noticed in the national budget.
He said: “As everyone knew, the schedule in the budget consists of Part A, which is the statutory transfers; Part B, which is the debt servicing; Part C, recurrent expenditure and Part D, capital expenditure.
“I will raise some issues, which have to do with one, Ministry of Education; two, Ministry of Finance; and three, Ministry of Budget and National Planning and then, one observation with the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF.
“When you go to the Education Ministry, in Part C, which is the recurrent expenditure, which consists of both personnel and overhead, you will realise that the budget is N462.2 billion, but when you go to the summary of the budget by the MDAs, number 41: 0.5.1.8 personnel now changed to about N539.6 billion.
“When you go to Ministry of Finance, the budget of the ministry in the recurrent expenditure in Part C is N10.8 billion. However, there is also an error when you go to the summary, which is number 21: 2.2.0. Personnel is N7.4 billion, which is okay, but when you go to the overhead, it now becomes N2.26 trillion and, therefore, that has also changed.
“In the Ministry of Budget and Planning, in Part C is N9.3 billion, but, however, when you go to the summary by MDAs, which is number 28: 0.2.3.8 personnel in the Ministry of Budget and Planning, it has now become N66.21 billion.
Then overhead also changed there; it is now N832.2 billion. Then the total, which is personnel and overheard in that aspect, has now become N1.49 trillion.
“The capital also has changed to about N655.9 billion, now giving us a total allocation of the Ministry of Budget and Planning, to N2.15 trillion, instead of N9.3 billion.
“Also, at the capital, which is D aspect, page 118 appeared only as ‘Federation.’ We don’t have any MDA called federation, but when I continued with the research, I realised that in that federation, there is a capital component of N31.8 billion.
I found that the federation is in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, so why did they write federation?.”
The Niger lawmaker rattled the House and obviously prompted the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, to call for concurrence of the errors by other members who might have observed such discrepancies.
The Speaker’s call for reconciliation got the responses of from Aliyu Pategi from Kwara State who corroborated Adamu’s submissions. The speaker also asked the deputy speaker, Gabajabimila, Pategi, Adamu, Omidiran and the Clerk of the House to approach his desk for an aside on the issue.
At the end, Dogara announced that there were irreconcilable differences in the estimates of some ministries and as such limited the debates to just the general principles of the bill.
He asked the relevant House Committee chairman to liaise with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning for reconciliation of the figures before another debate day.
Speaking with newsmen on the irregularities, Leader of the House, Gbajabiamila said: “Mathematical errors in figures are things that are normal. At worst, it may reflect some kind of tardiness but it doesn’t take away the substance and the merit of what we are debating.
“And if you know the rules of the House very well, we are not here to debate the intricate details of the figures and numbers of the budget, we debate the general principles. That is what the debate is about.
“It is a good observation and I believe it has been noted. Like the speaker said, it will be sent back; the communication will be done. They will correct the figures just here and there that may have the potential of distorting the numbers. That will be cleaned up.”