The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has criticized the extant budgetary system in the country and called for a “reform of the process of the passage of the Appropriation Act in the National Assembly that encourages more openness and transparency especially at the Committee levels.”
He spoke on Monday while delivering a lecture themed: ‘Budget as Tool for Efficient Executive-Legislative Relations’ at a seminar organised by Orderpaper.ng at the Sheraton Hotel in Abuja.
Although accused by former Appropriations Committee chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin in the alleged padding of the 2016 budget, Dogara lamented that the current budgetary system is highly permissive of laziness, wasteful spending and fraud.
The Speaker said, “A situation where an approved budget is not allowed to operate for 12 months is constitutionally unacceptable. This is the main reason for failure of budget implementation every year and the cause of abandoned projects that litter the Nigerian landscape.
“When projects are not completed, the nation is terribly shortchanged as the money and effort invested in it is lost. In this regard, we must institute a compulsory mechanism that rolls over major projects that is not completed in one budget year into the following year’s budget.
“The current practice of not including on-going projects in the following year’s budget is a huge waste of resources.”
While proffering a new way forward, he recommended “a critical operation of financial year as defined in Section 318 of the Constitution.”
He also recommended an amendment of Section 82 of the Constitution to reduce the time the previous year’s budget will continue to run in the event that the Appropriation Act is not passed at the beginning of the Financial year from 6 months to 3 months.
Dogara also said current budget process lacked requisite transparency. He called for a broader participation of key sections of the society during deliberations to foster transparency.
His words: “Subjecting budget defence exercise to stakeholder involvement in a form of public hearing. Subjecting the annual budget to public scrutiny at National Assembly will give stakeholders opportunity to make their inputs and challenge incorrect assumptions in the Budget.
“This process will involve the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other professional bodies. The National Assembly will benefit from the research skills of various CSOs and the technical expertise of professional bodies at the enactment stage of the Appropriation Bill. I am aware that many CSOs scrutinise the Budget yearly and usually point out areas of duplications and wastages. We need to institutionalise this mechanism,” he added.