Dogara advocates holistic reform of budgeting process

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By; JOSHUA I. EGBODO, Abuja.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has outlined ways to improve budget process and implementation in Nigeria, lamenting that since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democractic rule, national budgets have failed to yield any satisfactory result to the people.
Speaking at a colloquium on Budget Matters in Abuja, he said the entire budget process must undergo a reform to make it more effective and impactful on the lives of the Nigerian people, adding that a critical look should be taken at the operation of Financial Year to ensure that its 12 month period is fully completed before another budget implementation begins.
“A situation where an approved budget is not allowed to operate for 12 months is constitutionally unacceptable. This is the main reason for failure of budget implementation every year and the cause of abandoned projects that litter the Nigerian landscape. When projects are not completed, the nation is terribly shortchanged as the money and effort invested in it is lost.
“In this regard, we must institute a compulsory mechanism that rolls over major projects that is not completed in one budget year into the following year’s budget. The current practice of not including on-going projects in the following year’s budget is a huge waste of resources”, he noted.
Dogara  also stressed that the National Assembly is constitutionally empowered to make final input on the budget in Nigeria, just as is the case in any presidential Section 4 which grants general law making powers to the National Assembly; Section 80, particularly 80(2); 80(3) and 80(4) which are unambiguous, Sections 4, 59, 80-82, and others, including Finance (Control and Management) Act, CAP F26, LFN 2004 and  the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.
“Those who contend that the National Assembly cannot increase the budget but can only reduce it are trying to import the British parliamentary law into a presidential system of government. In the British parliamentary system, the Crown has prerogative over money supply and the legislature is specifically prohibited from increasing the budget. It should be noted that the critical difference is that Parliament under a parliamentary system includes all the Ministers unlike the presidential system where the Ministers are not part of the National Assembly.
“It is therefore the decision of the Executive that carries the day in Parliament as the Ministers are also leaders of Parliament. This position is therefore justified on the basis of separation of powers which is inherent in a Presidential democracy as practiced in Nigeria. In addition, if the Constitution intended that the National Assembly should not have power to increase a budget item it should have said so,” the speaker said.
He also explained that “Nigeria’s budgeting system is closer to the model practiced in the United States of America, where Congress has authority to alter, increase, reduce or indeed introduce new budget items”.

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