Experts yesterday faulted senate’s move to pass the 2018 budget which President Muhammadu Buhari presented over six months ago to a joint session of the National Assembly on November 7, 2017, saying the mid-year passage of budgets is counterproductive and setting the country economically backward.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the Senate’s current rush to pass the budget this week was because the life span of the 2017 ends on May 31st this year.
Experts who separately spoke with LEADERSHIP yesterday includes a lecturer at the Agricultural Economics Department of the University of Ibadan, Professor Victor Olugbenga Okorua, a Nigerian professor of public law and president of the Center for Socio-Legal Studies, Professor Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), a professor of economics and former secretary of the Nigerian National Merit Award (NMMA), Professor Gbolagade Ayoola and a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Abuja, Dr Mohammed Etudaiye
The experts observed that the six months the 2018 budget estimates had spent in the National Assembly had been the longest period for consideration of an appropriation bill so far since year 2000 when a full-fledged yearly budget was first presented to it.
They insisted that the rush at present to pass the budget bill is a belated exercise because when the Senate Appropriation Committee lays its report on the 2018 Appropriation Bill before senate plenary today and passed it tomorrow or next, it will be transmitted to the resident for his assent next week.
The possibility of meeting the May 31st life span the lawmakers earlier set for the 2017 might after all not be achievable on the grounds that the President will require not less than two weeks to study the 2018 Appropriation Bill passed by the National Assembly before giving his assent, if the budget is not muddled up or padded as usual.
‘’The budget bill passed by the lawmakers may likely be sent back by the President to the National Assembly if he found out that the budget as passed by the lawmakers may be un-implementable.
This is just as they held that by the clear provisions of the Public Procurement Act and the Fiscal Responsibility Act, it will require three good months for contracts awarded by the Federal Government based on the 2018 Appropriation Act to take effect.
Even if President Buhari assents to this budget bill by June this year, its implementation will begin in September, which is the height of rainfall period in the country.
No road contractor can go to the project site when the rain is falling and therefore they will have to wait till November or December before they can implement budgets for road constructions or the likes.
The agricultural economist among the experts said the budget for farm seeds and fertilizer procurements can’t be implemented also, saying the seeds cannot be planted neither can the fertilizer be applied by September during the year.
The budget, the experts held is the heart of the development of the nation and should be taken very seriously by the executive and the legislative arms of government, adding that no one should expect this budget to record even 20% performance by December this year just as we witnessed with the 2017 budget.
They said rather than yearly ritual of budgeting, the nation should revert to the old exercise of four-yearly national development plan or three-yearly budgeting as practiced in some developed economies.
What should be carried yearly should be in the form of supplementary budget for recurrent expenditure.
According to Akinseye-George, ‘’The 1999 Constitution which fails to stipulate time for the President to lay the budget before the National Assembly and time to mandatorily pass it to law need to be amended.
‘’Although, the law permits the executive to implement 60% of budget estimates but that gives room to abuses, non-planning or confusion because it is not easy to estimate what the lawmakers will approve or not.
‘’What is obtainable even in United States of America is three yearly development budgeting and supplementary budget for recurrent expenditure in the year.
‘’Until we begin deal with the issue of budgeting with seriousness, the country will never develop because budget planning and implementation is the heart of development of any nation’’, Akinseye-George said.
Okorua however said, ‘’as the passage of the budget is delayed, no new contract is awarded, and therefore the money in circulation is low, and triggering inflation in the economy.
‘’Many contractors are also bound to lay off their staff, talk less of employing additional hands. This explain one of the causes of unemployment in the country too.
‘’Late passing of budget also affects the infrastructural development in the country because no road contract can be awarded or carried out during the raining season; besides the budget for purchase and distribution of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer cannot be implemented’’.
On his own, Ayoola said ‘’we are yet to get the tenet of development right in the country. Turning the budget to instrument of quarrel by the executive and the legislature will never help anyone’’
Etudaiye said, ‘’with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act and the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the executive will require three months to award contracts base capital expenditure side of the budget. The performance of this budget like last year own may not be up to 20% by the end of this year’’.
President Muhammadu Buhari presented the N8.612 trillion 2018 budget estimates to a joint session of the National Assembly on the 7th of November last year which both chambers are set to pass this week.
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