AGF Tackles NASS Over Budget ‘Secrecy’
By Taiye Odewale
The Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, has tackled the National Assembly (NASS) over ‘secrecy’ embedded in its annual budget.
Idris took up the National Assembly on the alleged budgetary concealment last Friday during a budget defence session before the Senate Committee on Finance.
He said it was one of the factors inhibiting his office from determining the actual capital performance of national budget on yearly basis.
Idris’s position was made known to the Senate committee headed by Senator John Enoh (PDP Cross River Central), as a response to question fired at him by the committee on overall capital performance of national budget for the 2016 fiscal year.
Responding, , the Accountant-General of the Federation said: ” Distinguished, let me also say that all these performances we are talking about, in terms of capital performance or delivery, it does not include capital component of statutory organisations.
“Some of them, we don’t have their performances. For instance, I don’t have the capital performance of the National Assembly budget. I don’t have it, but I know how much I released every month. So, it is the management that decides their capital. With this, it’s difficult to know the overall capital performance of national budget.”
He, however, said the general performance of his office budget for 2016, taking into cognizance the three components of the appropriation, stood at 89.5 percent.
But the committee also took the AGF to task by demanding explanations from him over alleged disproportionate releases of funds to ministries and agencies of government in the 2016 appropriation.
Specifically, the committee chairman alleged that while overhead allocations to Office of Accountant-General were done up to September, leaving October, November and December outstanding, allocations to other ministries and agencies were last done in August.
Besides, he added that while the 2016 budget performance of the Office of the Accountant-General stood at 72.2 percent that of other agencies were between 60 and 70 percent a development the lawmakers further queried.
“The September allocation to the Office of the Accountant-General came in November. Other agencies of government collected their overhead last in August and some of them were paid August overhead in January.
“Now, the last allocation which is that of August was given to you in September and you collected that of September in November, how do you reconcile these?
“Is it that you are taking advantage because you are the custodian of the fund that you can draw allocation as at when due and other ministries will be deprived and you have yours?” he queried.
But Idris in his response attributed the highlighted problems to funding challenge in the 2016 budget, even as he assured that there was still hope of possible release of money for appropriation in the 2016 fiscal year.
“We have not lost hope of additional release in terms of 2016. We have obvious funding challenge. There’s an obvious challenge of funding, they are not coming as they’re supposed to come, “he said.
He further explained that the total appropriation for the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation was N3.852 billion, made up of N3.015 billion for personnel cost; overhead of N658.866 million; while capital cost of N178.062 million.
“For overhead, we were funded 72.27 percent and utilisation is almost 100 percent; for capital, we were funded 30 percent and we utilized what was given. In actual sense, there’s even a demand in 2017 for some funding to address the gap in terms of delivery by our contractors for the different capital projects that we are undertaking in addition to our proposal for 2017.
“So in summary, our performance generally for 2016 is 89.5, taking into cognizance of all the three components of the appropriation, ” he said.
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