7th August, 2012
Last week’s appearance of the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, before the Senate has helped to clarify a lot about our attitude to budget implementation in this country. Her appearance also helped a lot to explain why we continue to have unused funds (meant for the provision of infrastructure) in the accounts of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) at the end of the year which are then shared by those at the helm of these MDAs.
According to the minister, the actual implementation of this year’s budget actually started four months into the year, that is April. As at Thursday last week when the minister appeared befor the Senate, the government had only released N404 billion out of the N1.3 trillion voted for the execution of capital projects in this year’s budget. Out of the money released, we also learnt that only N324 billion was cash-backed.
Okonjo-Iweala also clarified that out of the N324 billion cash-backed, only N184 billion had actually been spent by the MDAs to execute the various projects listed in this year’s budget.
She appealed to the lawmakers not to conclude now that the government was too slow in the implementation of the budget and urged them to give the government up till the end of the year for the full implementation of the budget.
The House of Representatives had earlier threatened to commence impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan if he fails to achieve 100 percent implementation of the budget by September.
We are at a loss to understand why eight months into the year, the budget has only been implemented for only four months. We also cannot understand why out of the N1.3 trillion voted for capital projects, only N324 billion was cash-backed eight months into the year. We are also worried that only N184 billion has so far been spent by government ministries, departments and agencies on the provision of the much needed infrastructure in the country.
We are alarmed that less than four months to the end of the year, only N324 billion, out of a total of N1.3 trillion, earmarked for capital expenditure in this year’s budget, has been released and cash-backed. What assurance do we have that the budget will be implemented fully by the end of the year going by the slow pace at which the government is releasing money for the implementation of the budget?
If the government is not broke, as Okonjo-Iweala made us to understand, what then is responsible for the piece meal release of funds for the execution of vital projects in the country?
We align our position with that of members of the lower house who called for a speedy implementation of the budget to ameliorate the suffering of Nigerians.
This is because there are lots of projects begging to be executed. Nigerians are craving for the provision of stable electricity; they want the bad roads repaired and new ones to reduce their hardship; they want free and affordable education; they want the hospitals fully equipped; they want to be able to afford three square meals a day and a massive reduction in unemployment.
The present administration will do well to release money for these projects now and prevent a situation where some unscrupulous civil servants will steal the money they described as unspent budget at the end of the year.
Just as the members of the House of Representatives stated, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala cannot claim to love Nigerians more than their representatives. We implore President Goodluck Jonathan to look into budget implementation debacle and give a clear directive for a speedy release of money for the execution of projects in the country.