The Senate says it may take a major legislative decision as majority of the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have refused to either submit details of their 2018 budget proposal or their amendments as requested by Senate committees.
The vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Sonny Ogbuoji (Ebonyi-PDP) made this known while briefing other lawmakers on the status of the 2018 budget on Wednesday.
The lawmakers accordingly resolved to give another a one-week ultimatum to the MDAs after which, “the committees will work only with the appropriation as submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari.”
The Senate had on February 14 issued a one-week ultimatum to 63 government agencies that are yet to submit details of their 2018 budget proposals.
Despite the expiration of the ultimatum, Ogbuoji said most heads of agencies have refused to interface with the Senate committees for consideration of the proposals.
“Most of the subcommittees have huge challenges with the MDAs because majority of them are not coming forward to interface with them. Some of them, ministers, they will tell you they are travelling out of the country and because of them, the MDAs are not fully ready.
“Again, some of the MDAs, when asked to go back and work on what they brought, they don’t come back. And that is really delaying the work. That is why we don’t have a comprehensive report up till today,” he said.
While urging the MDAs to yield to the Senate’s appeal, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan will communicate to the heads of defaulting agencies on the need to discharge their roles in the budget process.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was however, not comfortable with the ruling.
He proposed that the Senate continue the budget process with the appropriation presented by President Buhari.
“It is not right for the MDAs and the ministers to hold the country down. It has come to a stage where we have to consider taking what has already been presented to the president from those MDAs, instead of waiting for them forever.
“So, instead of all of us suffering, let us give them few more days and after that, the relevant committees will adopt what was sent to us as the position of the MDAs, so that we pass the budget.
Philip Aduda (FCT-PDP) asked the Senate to give “marching orders to the MDAs.”
“The implication is that these ministries are holding the country to ransom. If you go out there, the feeling is that the National Assembly is not working on the budget, with people not knowing it is the various ministers and MDAs who are not doing their work, travelling out of the country and forgetting about the welfare of the citizens.
“You must give timeline to these ministers and tell them to sit and do what is needful so we can have budget. Otherwise if we continue like this, we may not pass this budget until June and Nigerians will not know it is the fault of the National Assembly. So, you should give marching orders to these MDAs and ministers for them to submit their reports within a timeline so that the committee(s) can do their work.”
The lawmakers then resolved to give the MDAs one more week to submit details of their budget proposals and make their defence.
Conveying the resolution, Saraki said, “The consensus is that we give these agencies maximum of end of next week. Anything that has not come by then, the committee should complete their exercise and work on what they have.”
Saraki, however, cautioned against passing the budget without input from MDAs.
“If we now proceed without the MDAs being present and the committee decides to do their work, when the budget is now passed, we are back to the problem of where it will be said the inputs of the agencies were not taken into consideration,” he said.