2020 budget: Discriminatory execution of capital projects threatens Presidency, NASS ties

Subdued anger in the National Assembly (NASS) on what lawmakers called “discriminatory implementation of capital projects accommodated in the 2019 budget” is threatening the current cordial relationship between the Senate and the Presidency.

To that effect, many Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), which were selectively implementing past and present capital projects have already been marked for thorough parliamentary rebuke or reprimand during the processing of the 2020 budget, which will begin next week.

The Senate leadership, it was learnt, has quietly charged all its standing committees that have oversight responsibilities on the MDAs to ensure that before going into the details of the 2020 budget proposals of MDAs, a comprehensive investigation of the performance of their 2019 budget should be conducted.

A total of N2.094t was appropriated for capital projects in the current 2019 budget.

The 8th National Assembly had running battles with the executive arm over the latter’s failure to comply with provisions of the Appropriation Acts with regards to capital projects.

But Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, since his election on June 11, 2019 election has continued to insist that the 9th National Assembly would do everything possible to fully cooperate with the executive arm of government so as to achieve the “next level” agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.

Some Senators are bitter that some MDAs hid behind the desire of the leadership of the National Assembly to engage in selective implementation of the capital projects.

Arising from a “gentleman agreement” reached between the executive and the National Assembly since the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004, the sum of N100b has always been set aside for constituency projects, or zonal intervention projects.

A principal officer in the Senate from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who pleaded anonymity, explained the true meaning of the gentleman agreement in constituency projects.

“Lawmakers don’t collect these funds. The money is not meant for us, but for the projects that we identified in the interest of our people. We select from a list of available options usually presented by the executives. It is the same executive that determines the contractors to execute the project. All we do is monitor the projects in our various constituencies.”

Promising to accelerate work on the 2020 budget proposal to be presented to a joint session of the NASS on Tuesday, lawmakers, however hinted that things would not be smooth for heads of MDAs found guilty of such discriminatory execution of constituency Projects.

“Look, there is no way we can keep working and passing budgets annually, but having issues of poor implementation. It is particularly worrisome when the money is there and some projects are deliberately ignored in the process of execution. This should not be allowed to continue,” another lawmaker said.

Confirming the Senate’s resolve on the issue, its spokesman, Adedayo Adeyeye, stated that the Senate has resolved to do everything within the law to compel MDAs to turn up and answer questions on budget implementation.

Adeyeye said: “We are resolute about that, once the President lays that budget before us next week, all MDAs must suspend whatever they maybe doing to come and defend their budgets. I don’t think any MDAs will dare make that mistake of delaying their budget defense.