*demand monetary receipts on local travels, adverts, publicity from NEPC
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-House of Representatives Committee on Commerce Thursday said, unless the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enalemah appears before it, the Ministry’s 2018 budget defence would not hold.
The Committee took the decision at the commencement of the budget defence for the Ministry and agencies under it scheduled for Thursday.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mr. Edet Akpan had announced his presence as the representative of the Minister.
But members of the committee frowned at the absence of the Minister.
Lamenting on the issue, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga said that the Minister was in the habit of not making himself available for any engagement with the lawmakers.
He said that budget defence was a serious business which needed the presence of the minister.
Hon. Ogbaga stated that the Committee could take on other agencies in the absence of the Minister.
He said: “When it comes to accountability, that’s why we emphasize…if we don’t have the minister, we may not be engaging with the main ministry at the moment. At any time, he decides to be with us, no problem. The hasty nature of passing the 2018 budget is with the ministry not the lawmakers. We can only take people who will take responsibility for this funds.
“We have invited the minister. It doesn’t show any sense of responsibility to the ministry. Any agency that…may not get any allocation for 2018. You cannot barb any body in his or her absence.”
Hardly had the chairman finished making his remarks than the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar walked into the hall.
Recognizing her presence, the Chairman asked that she make her presentation after which the lawmakers insisted on the physical appearance of the Minister.
“I am sure you will not comfortably talk on his behalf unless you are too sure of a reliable date you can take on his behalf because the committee will want him to be available during the budget discussions and members are desirous of going into the study of your submissions because of the volume, that’s 2017 and 2018 and make comparisons of what has been utilized, released, provided for in the budget of the 2017 and what is also in that of 2018 and by the time we receive message from you, we should be conveying another sitting to engage the Minister. For now, we want to thank you for making yourself available we assure you that your submission is in our hands but we have not taken decision on the documentation until the minister is opportune to be with us.
“And we will not fix this. If he wants to have a date, he has to communicate the secretariat of this committee and fix the date that will be very comfortable for him, not for the committee because we are doing our job and we are at the service of the nation. That’s why we are elected. So, I thank you for your presentation”, the Committee chairman said.
Meanwhile, the Minister for State in her presentation earlier gave details of the 2017 budget performance.
According to her, only N3, 87, 901, 206 had been released to the ministry which represents 16 percent of the N19 billion appropriated for capital projects.
She said: “On the 2017 budget performance, again, the capital, we appropriated N19 billion. Actual releases to date is N3 billion which is an appropriation of only 16 percent with an expenditure of N2, 190, 120, 70 which is 70 percent. For overhead, what was appropriated as earlier said was N71 billion out of which only N246, 592, 632. 97 was released which is 35 percent. There is an expenditure of N224, 880,172.74 which is 91 percent of overhead releases. For the capital project as at today, the sums stands at N3, 87, 901, 206. This was released to the ministry which is 16 percent of the N19 billion that was expected. The bulk of the release has been utilized while others are at advanced stage and we are optimistic that this will be concluded before the end of the financial year.
“The overhead appropriation of the ministry for 2017 was N701 and total releases was N246.5 million and the expenditure was N224 million which is 91 percent. Revenue projection for the was N212, 277, 488, out of which only N178, 953 was realized”.
In its engagement with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, the Committee asked the body to make available receipts of all monies expended on local transportation, local travels, adverts and publicity for 2017 fiscal year.
The committee reached after expressing doubts that the Council had spent up to N700 million on the items allocated in the budget.
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