Budget Implementation: Senate Scores Executive Low …Summons Adeosun, Udoma …As Saraki Reshuffles C’ttee Chairmen, Deputies …FG Releases N336bn For Capital Projects

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike (right), exchanging pleasantries with a woman, during the inspection of projects with the Guild of Editors in the state, last Saturday.

The Senate has invited the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma to brief it on the implementation of the 2017 Appropriation Act.
The Senate, at the plenary yesterday scored the Executive low on implementation of the national budget, especially for what it called the inadequate releases for capital projects.
This was contained in a motion moved by Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos-East), entitled, ‘Inadequate Releases in the 2017 Budget and the Need to Expedite Releases in Order to Stimulate the Economy,’ which was adopted by the lawmakers.
The Senate unanimously adopted a prayer of the motion to “request that the Honourable Minister of Finance and the Honourable Minister of Budget and National Planning appear before the Senate in plenary immediately to brief the Senate on the cause of the inadequate releases and steps being taken to expedite release of funds for the capital component of the 2017 Appropriation Act.”
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, in his remarks on the motion, asked the Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, to immediately write Adeosun and Udoma.
In another motion moved by Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi-North), titled ‘Stabilising and Sustaining Post-Recession Growth of the Economy, the Senate unanimously adopted the prayers, including to “urge the national economy managers to remain focused and ensure that the current weak growth of a mere 0.55 per cent is built upon and increased substantially in the months and years to come.”
The Senate also urged the fiscal and monetary authorities to come together and harmonise fiscal and monetary policies, with a view to drastically reducing the high interest rates that have adversely affected borrowing for investment by the real sector of the economy.”
Also, the lawmakers urged fiscal authorities to drastically reduce the accumulation of domestic debt in order to free the market for better access by the private sector.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Saraki has announced the reshuffling of committee chairmen and their Deputies, Saraki  who made the announcement at the end of yesterday’s plenary, said that the move was designed to strengthen the institution of the Senate as well as ensure that proper oversight functions were carried out.
According to Saraki, the Committee on Public Accounts now has Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South as Chairman, just as Committee on Trade and Investment will now be headed by Senator Sabo Mohammed while Interior committee now has Senator Andy Uba as Chairman.
Culture and Tourism is to be Chaired by Senator Raji Razaki and Local Content by Senator Adeola Olamilekan; Cooperation and Integration is now chaired by Senator Stella Oduah, while Capital Market Development is now headed Senator Bukar Mustapha.
Before now, Senator Urhoghide was Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism while Capital Market was chaired by late Senator Isiaka Adeleke.
Others are Mohammed Sani, Vice Chairman, committee on Trade and Investment; Ademola Adeleke, Vice Chairman, committee on Communications; Godswill Akpabio, Vice Chairman, committee on Local Content; and Babajide Omoworare, Vice Chairman, committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
Speaking to newsmen, Senator Matthew Urhoghide who described the new position as a great challenge, said that the existence of the Public Accounts Committee was constitutional, just as he said that he would ensure that all agencies of government in the three tiers of government account for every kobo or money expended by them.
Senator Urhoghide said, “ When you have spent funds, you account for it, the assignment is beyond auditing the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, we will look at the Universal Basic Education, UBEC to state and their existence where public finds have been voted for.”
According to him, there must be accounting for public funds, even as he said that the Committee would be up and doing and deliver especially against the backdrop of fight against corruption, adding that the agencies of government must account for the money spent and there must be proper accounting, adding that people must be held responsible for all actions carried out.
Senator Urhoghide who urged all government agencies to cooperate with the Senate and the Committee in particular, said, “ I will discharge my duty, I see it as a challenge, I will reshape the landscape of public expenditure.”
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki yesterday swore-in Andrew Uchendu as the Senator representing Rivers East following the sack of Senator George Sekibo.
It would be recalled that the last reshuffling was in July, 2017, when Kabir Marafa became the chairman of the Petroleum Resources Committee (Downstream) and Oluremi Tinubu, was moved from Women Affairs Committee to the Committee on the Environment.
Sulieman Hukunyi was moved to National Identity Management Committee as Chairman. Adamu Aliero was moved to Aviation as Chairman, while Hope Uzodinma got Customs. Barau Jibril got Tertiary Institutions and Binta Masi got Women Affairs.
The Public Procurement Committee got Joshua Dariye as its chairman, while James Manager, who was chairman of the Committee on Power was moved to the Solid Minerals Committee.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who was Chairman, Committee on Information and National Orientation, was moved to the Committee on Power, while Adokwe Suleiman was named Chairman, Information Committee.
Legislative Compliance Committee had Babajide Omoworare, who used to head the Rules and Business Committee, as its chairman, while the latter was headed by Baba Garbai. The Federal Character Committee had Senator Tijani Kaura as its Chairman.
In another development, the Federal Government said it has released a total sum of N336bn for the implementation of capital projects contained in the 2017 budget.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who confirmed this in a statement issued yesterday, said the amount was for the first quarter of this year.
The 2017 budget, christened Budget of Recovery and Growth, was presented to the National Assembly on 14th December, 2016, and passed by the lawmakers on the 11th of May, 2017.
The fiscal document, which was signed into law by then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on June 12, 2017, had a total expenditure of N7.44trn out of which N2.99trn was for non-debt recurrent spending, N2.36trn for capital expenditure, while debt servicing was to gulp N1.66trn.
She said while the ministry had earlier announced that N350billion would be released, the sum of N336billion has been made available to Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.
Out of this amount, the minister said the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing got the highest allocation of N90billion.
This is followed by the Ministry of Defence with N71billion while Transport Ministry got N30billion.
Furthermore, she said Agriculture Ministry received N30billion, Water Resources got N12billion, while other sectors combined received a total sum of N103billion.
Adeosun said the prioritization of the release of available funds was made in accordance with the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
She said the Federal Government will continue to focus on capital expenditure spending on priority sectors to stimulate economic activities and job creation.
The statement quoted her to have said, “despite fiscal constraints, the Federal Government was able to fully cash-back the budgeted capital releases so far made, which is a reflection of the current administration’s commitment to economic development.”
The 2017 budget with capital allocation of N2.36trillion was targeted at projects that are aligned with the core execution priorities of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.