Finance Minister Grilled By Senate Over Allegations Of N1.7 Trillion Budget Padding.
The Nigerian Senate has grilled Zainab Ahmed, the minister of finance over budget padding allegation.
Mrs Ahmed was initially summoned by the lawmakers to explain insertions into the 2023 budgetary allocations of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
She was summoned after the heads of the affected MDAs could not provide the explanations for the insertions in their projects. Most of them expressed ignorance of the allocations and said the finance ministry was in a better position to explain.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Senate Committee on Special Duties on 21 November, discovered N206 billion in the 2023 budget of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
The Minister, Sadiya Farouq, was unable to provide details of the proposed allocation. She told the panel that she did know how the N206 billion was inserted into her ministry’s 2023 budget by the ministry of finance.
Besides the humanitarian ministry, another N8.6 billion was discovered in the budget of the Ministry of Defence, N195.5 billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power, among others – all of whom feigned ignorance.
Mrs Ahmed appeared before the Senate Committee on Appropriations to explain the allocations.
She told the panel that the allocations which some MDAs claimed to be unaware of, were approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), before budget presentation itself by President Muhammadu Buhari in October.
“All the proposed budgetary sums like the N206 billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, the N8.6 billion in the Ministry of Defence , N195 billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power, were all captured before presentation by Mr President,” she said. “Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of agencies selected for project execution for the sole purpose of transparency.”
She said the totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771 trillion.
She also blamed the heads of the affected MDAs for failing to carry out thorough scrutinisation of their approved budgetary proposals, else the issue of insertion or budget padding would not have arisen at all.
“…it is the realisation of which made the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magsshi to apologise after feigning ignorance of N8.6 billion in his ministry’s budget during interface with Senate Committee on Defence,” she said.
A satisfied committee chairman, Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North), said the clarifications made by the minister were “well understood by all the committee members.” He also commended her for “ensuring transparency with capturing of such loans or grants in the budget.”
The consideration and passage of the 2023 budget is in its final stages.
The Appropriations committee is currently collating the reports of other committees for a final report which will be presented and considered at plenary – on another legislative day.