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Senate panel fails to lay revised 2020 budget report over missing N186bn for health sector

The senate committee on appropriation was unable to lay a report on the revised 2020 budget estimates over the omission of N186 billion ...

The senate committee on appropriation was unable to lay a report on the revised 2020 budget estimates over the omission of N186 billion by the executive.

The aforementioned sum is meant for the health sector and part of the N500 billion intervention fund requested by the federal government following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

The budget had to be adjusted by the federal government in line with the current economic realities, as COVID-19 affected the price of oil, which is the major stay of the country’s economy.

Speaking on the floor of the upper legislative chamber on Tuesday, Barau Jibrin, chairman of the appropriation committee, said only N314 billion was included in the document sent by the budget office.

Jibrin said Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, failed to send a letter to address the irregularity after her attention was drawn to it by his committee.

“It has to do with the health sector. Of the N500 billion captured in the MTEF, it was only N314 billion captured in the bill. The N186 billion has to do with health and this is fundamental to that intervention and the health sector,” he said.

“We had to draw the attention to the budget office and indeed the minister to redeem this obvious error. We sat with the budget office who was insisting that they thought that since that full amount was captured in the MTEF, there was no need for it to be captured in the full budget. We said no, that will be against section 80 and 81 of the constitution.

“We told the minister that there should be a letter telling us to include that. Then she promised she will send a letter yesterday but we waited till the end of the day and the letter didn’t come.

“So we are giving them today. If they don’t bring the letter, we will not have any option but to present the bill as given to us and if they have made up their mind, they can bring supplementary budget later.”

Speaking on the development, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said those in charge of preparing the budget document should be “meticulous” about doing their jobs.

Lawan directed the committee to ensure that it receives the letter from the finance minister and prepare the necessary documents for their consideration on Thursday.

“I will advise those responsible for putting the budget estimates or revised or whatever to be meticulous and to be responsible. The national assembly cannot be a destination where lack of efficency in somebody’s job will be addressed. We are supposed to have the entire bill presented to us,” he said.

“You did the right thing by asking and insisting that a letter should be written to specifically address that problem. It is an omission on their side.”

The senate is expected to pass the resvised budget on Thursday.

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