COVID-19 Intervention fund: Omission stalls Senate consideration of revised budget

The Senate on Tuesday could not receive the report of its Committee on Finance and Appropriation for consideration over the omission of the N500bn intervention fund requested by the executive.

The situation which led to preventing the Senate from carryout it’s expeditious consideration of the revised N10.509 trillion budget as the amount on the COVID-19 intervention item has a proposed budget of N314bn less N186bn of the N500bn intervention fund the presidency requested.

The Senate had last week fast-tracked consideration of the budget as it considered and approved the parameters of the budget as contained in the proposed 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper.

Explaining why the committee cannot present its report to the Senate as expected, the chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation said the failure of the budget office to capture the N500bn COVID-19 in the Proposed appropriation bill and delayed in a letter from the budget office to this effect.

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Report from the committee listed on the Order Paper for presentation to the Senate, consequent on which the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, called on the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee, Jibrin Barau ( APC Kano North), to lay the report.

Senator Barau said the refusal of the Budget office to capture the entire N500billion intervention fund for COVID-19 in the appropriation bill.

According to him, while N314billion is captured as part of the COVID-19 intervention fund, the balance of N186billion proposed for the health sector was not captured.

“Upon making such observation at the committee level, we quickly inform the budget office of the omission last week.

“Though the budget office as part of excuses given for the omission said since the entire N500billion was captured in the MTEF/ FSP documents already passed by the Senate, that there was no need for it to be fully captured in the budget.

“But we rejected that excuse in line with sections 80 and 81 of the 1999 Constitution which empowers the National Assembly to appropriate every single Kobo for the executive before spending.

“On the strength of our superior argument, the budget office admitted wrongness of the omission but promised to write a letter to us to be used as evidence of helping them to include it.

“But the expected letter never came till now, making us not to be ready for the presentation of any report now.

“If by the end of today, the office still refuses to send the letter to us, we shall be left with no other alternative than to print out our report today based on proposals contained in the Appropriation bill for consideration in plenary tomorrow,” he said.

President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan was angry over the verbal report of the committee chairman and said: ” The Senate hereby advise those responsible for the budget documents and expected letter to do the needful without further delay. They need to be meticulous and responsible.

“The National Assembly cannot be a destination where a lack of efficiency on somebody’s job would be entertained.

“If we put figures without documents, they will accuse us of padding. We must have the documents printed today unfailingly, lay it tomorrow and give it final consideration on Thursday”, he said.

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