The National Assembly has shifted the passage of the 2018 national budget till May. By implication the 2017 budget circle would end on May 31.
The lawmakers heaped the blame on the executive for failing to submit 2018 Finance Bill along with the budget proposal.
The finance bill is usually demanded by the National Assembly to guide against revenue leakages and inconsistency in government fiscal policy.
The 2018 budget had earlier failed the usual March 31 window, owing to disagreement between the executive and the legislative arms of government.
The Accountant-General of the Federation has already been informed of the new shift in date.
At a marathon joint public hearing of the two legislative chambers on Tuesday, the lawmakers engaged the heads of the various ministries, department and agencies (MDAs) in consultations that lasted till late in the evening.
Commenting on the development, the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Dawaki Mustapha, said it would no longer be feasible for the Account-General to close the 2017 budget by March 31.
Mustapha said: “We are told that the office of the accountant general is expected to close the account as at March ending. So, we have written a letter yesterday, drawing his attention to the fact that the budget should be extended to May 31.”
He enjoined government contractors to continue working on the projects at hand, stressing that 2017 budget account will not be closed until the 2018 budget is passed in May.
Power, Works and Housing Minister, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who briefed the lawmakers at the session, said the Federal Government owed 138 contractors a total of N109 billion.
Fashola complained that existing procurement law has continued to make business transactions very difficult for small business owners.
He sought the intervention of the lawmakers for the immediate amendment to the law, with the view to eliminating bottlenecks in the way of small business owners.
This is happening in the face of dwindling government revenue, a situation Senate President, Bukola Saraki described as continued shortfall in projections.
Saraki, who attended the opening of the hearing said: “We are concerned about government-owned enterprises whose operating surpluses have always been significantly lower than projections.
“Invariably, over the years, the performance of independent revenues has fallen short by at least 50 per cent. While we work towards setting new performance standards for government corporations as well as developing stronger oversight frameworks to improve performance in independent revenues, we do expect more realistic projections of corporations’ operating surpluses.”
Saraki also stated that policy inconsistency and leakages have negatively affected non-oil revenue performances.
“That is why we had required that the 2018 budget proposal be accompanied by a 2018 Finance Bill (which has so far not been received by the National Assembly).
“Let me therefore use this opportunity to, once again, emphasise the need for the Finance Bill. We want government to show clarity and consistency in its policies and to see how these will square up to its financial projections for 2018”, Saraki said.
He also emphasized the need to ensure value-for-money in government spending as well as a culture of prioritized spending on locally made goods.
According to him, the Made-in-Nigeria initiative with regard to procurement policy of the government has been the thrust of some of the laws passed by the National Assembly, with focus on helping to revamp the nation’s industrial base.
“This is one sure way of creating opportunities for local entrepreneurs, encouraging private sector partnerships and creating jobs, especially for the youth.
“You will agree with me that, while it is important to achieve equity and balance in the spread of development projects around the country, we must also prioritise human capital development.
“It is in this vein that the National Assembly will prioritise expenditure on critical health and education facilities as well as soft infrastructure,” Saraki said.