Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), says the commission followed the 2019 budgetary provision despite pressure to accommodate some of its activities.
He said this while addressing the national assembly joint committee on budget defence in Abuja, on Thursday.
The INEC chairman said the commission’s budget status gives it the flexibility to move funds from one head to another in the bid to meet the demands of its mandate.
Babangida Ibrahim, representing Malumfashi/Kafur federal constituency of Katsina state, had asked a question on INEC’s extra-budgetary spending on overheads and group insurance items in the 2019 budget.
He requested the commission to disclose its other sources of revenue to warrant an expenditure above the approved expenditure in the budget provision.
Yakubu said the commission was faced with pressure as some of its activities were time-bound and needed to be accommodated.
“There are some activities we needed to undertake constitutionally and they are time-bound,” he said.
“At that time we received no money for the 2019 general elections and we operate a one line budget. Recall that if you look at the Appropriation Act of 2018, the only thing you see there is N45.5bn and we have to prioritise and re-prioritise within the envelope.
“We did not go outside the envelop. It was just a very difficult thing for us, I understand the point made by honourable Babangida, honestly it has been recurring, the argument here is that we moved funds from one head to another and did we now apply for virement?
“That is what I think it is leading to. It was almost impossible for us to conduct the 2019 general elections without looking at the budget and operating within the envelop allotted to us.
“You will not see this kind of thing happening in 2019, in 2020 it is not there, it was just a sheer pressure to accommodate these activities, now, biometrics and the pre-election activities, I thank God for the framers of our constitution is that we are on the one-line charge, we did not operate outside the envelope.”
He said the time-bound activities of the commission as provided in the constitution put pressure on its decisions and activities.
He said INEC was still able to work with the budget only that funds were sought internally to hasten its operations.
“Our assumption is that there is room for some flexibility in that respect that is why when the envelope is given and the budget is appropriated, all you see is a one liner. I completely understand the point that you are making, but I hope you understand the tremendous pressure we were under,” he said.
“For instance the constitution will specify that party primaries must be conducted X number of days, not earlier than X number of days, not lesser than X number of days.
“If we do not conduct the elections within the time stipulated, somebody will go to court and it increases the pressure on the resources of the commission and we have to get lawyers to defend the commission, I guess the one-line budget gives the flexibility. In the overall we have operated within the envelope.”
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