FEC replies Senate, insists MTEF not empty

•    Okays 2017 budget

THE Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday insisted that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) sent to the National Assembly ahead of the presentation of the 2017 budget was well prepared.

This is contrary to claims by the Senate, which had recently described the document as empty and not worth considering.

According to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, who briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, said it was prepared by experienced experts after extensive consultations.

The Senate had picked holes in the document sent to the National Assembly October 4, 2016, noting that it did not contain the details of the fiscal proposals.

Udoma rejected the assertion but noted that the estimates contained in the document at the time it was submitted were bound to change because of the changes in the exchange rate.

He said: “The MTEF was a very well prepared document after extensive consultations. We consulted the private sector, NGOs etc.

“But the assumptions of that MTEF were assumptions, which were true and correct as of the time it was prepared August.

“Naturally, every time you improve on your estimate based on the latest the estimates. For instance, one of the issues they raised was about the exchange rate, that we used 290 as the exchange rate, and that was the exchange rate of the time.

“So, you only use the exchange rate that is valid at that time. Naturally, by now, you will change that.

“So, the numbers whenever we appear before the National Assembly we’ll engage them and take them through one by one, and through each items.

“But that MTEF was extremely well prepared consistent with the best possible methods of ‎preparation by people who are very experienced in preparing MTEFs.”

The Minister also revealed that FEC had approved the 2017 budget preparatory to its transmission to the National Assembly for its consideration and approval.

He was however unable give detailed or say when the president would lay the document before the legislature.

“With regards to the date, the president will be communicating to the National Assembly and of course, it will be at the National Assembly’s discretion ultimately.

The president will write to them and after they confirm, then the president can come to address them,” he said.

On the implementation of the 2016 budget, he said that even though it had been affected by revenue constraint, government has been able to release N800 billion for capital projects and had also paid 100 percent on personnel.

“With respect to ‎implementation of 2016, as you are aware that we’ve have revenue constraints. Nevertheless, as we have been briefing regularly we are up to date. We have paid up to date,” Udoma stated.

Also speaking, Minster of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, said FEC had also approved the business case for concessioning and development of Ikere gorge dam in Oyo for 6 mega watts of electricity, Bakolori dam in Zamfara for 3.2 megawatts, Jibiya dam in Katsina for 4 megawatts, Zobe dam for 0.29 megawatts (290 kilowatts) in Katsina, Kampe Omi in Kogi for 2 megawatts of electricity and Doma dam in Nasarawa for 1 megawatt of hydro electricity.

This, he said, was in furtherance of ‎the administration’s incremental power initiative and rural electrification initiative.

“Not only do these projects further our quest for incremental energy wherever there is legitimate opportunity, they further our quest for renewable energy as well because hydro electricity is also clean energy,” Fashola noted.

Similarly, he said FEC approved the commencement of the Federal Secretariat complex in Ekiti state and the furnishing of the one in Gombe State.

Fashola said even though the Ekiti project was conceived in the year 2000, funding was not provided for it.