Reps threaten ministry with zero budget allocation over documents


From Victor Oluwasegun and Sanni Onogu, Abuja

 

The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday threatened the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with zero allocation in the 2021 budget unless it presents some essential documents.

Members of the Yusuf Buba Yakub-led committee were angry that the Director of Finance and Administration in the ministry, who appeared alongside the minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, was unable to answer vital questions on how the ministry used the bailout the Federal Government gave it.

Members of the committee asked him for details on the matter, but he could not.

Also, the committee wanted proof on the huge expenditure incurred on two generators at the ministry.

The committee warned that failure to provide the financial details may cause a delay in the passage of the ministry’s 2021 budget.

Committee Chairman Yakub referred to a bailout given to the ministry to offset some debts as well as arrears on workers’ welfare the various Nigerian missions were owing.

“We must appreciate the concern of Mr. President for approving and releasing over US$18 million, over 1 million Pounds and over N5 billion to clear existing liabilities in our Foreign Missions and give a new face to the headquarters in order to start on a clean slate,” he said.

Onyeama said the 2020 budget implementation had been difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A member of Foreign Affairs Sub-committee, Maigeri Bello Kasumu (APC Taraba), recalled that in the last meeting with the ministry, “we requested for some documents to enable the sub-committee carry out its work, but you submitted only part of it”.

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Yakub ruled that unless the required documents were tendered, the committee might give the ministry no allocation in the 2021 budget.

Also, the Account-General of the Federation (AuGF), Ahmed Idris, yesterday said the Federal Government will soon acquire a software to monitor revenue generating Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Idris was answering questions on the steps he took to reduce leakages and delays in remittances from MDAs.

The AuGF spoke at the 2021 budget defence session before the James Faleke-headed House Committee on Finance.

He said: “We don’t have visibility… As money is coming in, we see it dropping. Now, we don’t have. But we’re working through the Office of the Department of Revenue and Investment to have a software linked to all these revenue generating agencies.

 

“This is geared towards achieving that. Once we have that, we will deploy it to all revenue generating agencies, particularly as it relates to government-owned Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). But beyond that, we are also planning to do holistic for the federation.”

Faleke applauded the move, saying: “A situation where you’re able to see online how these revenues are generated by all agencies; you can just link up that system to the TSA and you will see it. So, you can allow and as well block using that system.”

Also, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Culture, Danladi Sankara (Jigawa North-West), urged the Federal Government to increase the annual budgetary allocation to the ministry to cover its critical schedules.

The senator spoke yesterday when Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed appeared before the committee to defend the ministry’s budgetary allocation for 2021.

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He said: “As a matter of fact, we are not happy with the budget that they put in the Ministry of Information and Culture because the budget is not enough.

“There are so many schedules in your ministry and it is our duty to try all we can do to intervene in the matter.

“We have to contact the Minister of Finance and the Budget Office to reconsider the allocation given to the Ministry of Information and Culture.”

Mohammed expressed appreciation to the committee for its understanding of the ministry’s position.

“…It is a thing of joy for me and the ministry to hear that the Senate Committee on Information and National Orientation has been fighting our cause in the sense that the committee understands through our various interactions that the burden on the ministry to execute its mandate is onerous and needs a lot of resources,” he said.



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