Reps question Transport Ministry over unspent N243bn 2016 budget
The House of Representatives, Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber has questioned the Federal Ministry of Transport over its failure to implement the 2016 budget one month to the end of the fiscal year.
The 2016 fiscal year is expected to end in May but the Federal Government recently extended the implementation of the capital component of the budget to June 2017.
Four House Committees comprising those on Aviation; Land Transport; Maritime Safety and Administration; Ports, Harbours and Waterways , who questioned the budget implementation for 2016 of the ministry, jointly expressed utter dismay over the failure of the ministry to implement its 2016 budget less than one month to the end of its life span.
The four committees spoke when they paid an official visit to the ministry in Abuja in line with the oversight function of the National Assembly.
The committees threatened to invoke relevant sections of the nation’s laws, which empower the National Assembly to give zero allocation to any ministry, department or agency which fails to utilise the budget of the previous year.
Chairman of House Committee on Maritime Safety and Administration, Mr. Mohammed Bago, who spoke on this strange and shocking discovery, said that the ministry presented different documents to the committees in the course of the visit, none of which contained any tangible fact on the budget in question.
According to him, the ministry was given a total of N243 billion out of which it has not spent one dime.
He therefore gave the ministry up to the end of April, 2017 to spend the money or risk a zero allocation in the 2017 appropriation.
He said: “The different positions made to the committees of the house on land transport, ports and harbour, maritime safety and administration as well as that of aviation vary and are quite different from one another”.
“We have received three different documents till date and all of them are not consistent and that is why we have asked for a new document to ascertain the value of what this project is all about.
“We are not going to appropriate on this budget until we have the facts and figures and if we do not have these facts and figures, the Federal Ministry of Transport will be given a zero allocation in the 2017 budget”.
“The Ministry received N243 billion under the 2016 budget and it is yet to spend the money even when the Federal Ministry of Health needs such money because people are dying of meningitis, Nigerian soldiers are dying in Sambisa, no money to fund their up keep yet the Transport Ministry is keeping its own unspent.”.
“The Federal Ministry of Transport is sitting on billions of Nigerians’ money released to it since last year and it has not utilised it.”
Chairman, House Committee on Land Transport, Mr. Aminu Sani, who also spoke on this development, expressed disappointment over the budget presentation and performance indices of the budget presented before the joint committee, which he insisted was not impressive and therefore unsatisfactory..
He said most of the items presented in the document were not in conformity with the expenditure items, which makes everything suspicious.
On the rating of the implementation of the 2016 budget of the ministry, he said that the direct expenditure of the ministry is zero performance in terms of budget implementation.
Meanwhile, Chairman, House Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways, Mr. Patrick Asadu said that members were at the ministry to ensure that funds allocated it were well spent.
He said that the committee was not satisfied with the document presented to it, adding that the money was not well spent.
“Our mission here is to help the ministry to ensure that money given to it was spent for what it was given”.
“But when this money is not well spent, we are not going to release more money; we are trying to look at what happened in the 2016 budget; we are insisting that the ministry spends it or we give it to other agencies.
The Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi had while briefing the committees, hinted that out of the N246billion budget, N60 billion was paid for the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge rail project.
He also told the committees that there were some challenges with the counterpart funding, details of which were not made public.
According to him, the Chinese EXIM Bank was to fund 85 per cent of the project initially, but it was currently funding only 78 per cent, leading to a shortfall of seven per cent.
“The Chinese EXIM Bank insisted it would not pay for land, survey and tax, and with the current foreign exchange rate and the extension of the rail to the ports, the project would not be completed this year as earlier scheduled”, the Minister had said.
Recall that there were media reports recently that China has released its counterpart funding for the project.