Lawmakers probe budget office over capital budget

Lawan Hamidu, Abuja.

The House of Representatives is to investigate an alleged directive by the Budget Office to government agencies to remit to the treasury, funds released to them for capital projects.

In a motion entitled: “Urgent need to curb a developing trend where the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation now directs Chief Executives of agencies of government to remit to the treasury capital funds already released to them,” sponsored by Mr. Agbedi Frederick, Bayelsa State, the House unanimously expressed concerns that the directive contradicts the 2016 Appropriation Act that allotted the money for capital projects to MDAs.

It was reported that the Director General Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze had directed the Managing Director Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA to remit N8bn to the treasury out of the N10bn released to the agency for capital projects.

Presenting the motion, Mr. Fredrick said that only the National Assembly has the constitutional powers to amend any Act seeking for amendments.

“The funds already released to FERMA were part of the funds already appropriated for FERMA in the Appropriation Act of 2016, passed by parliament, which is already a law, and that any amendment to this law can only be carried out by the National Assembly.”

Mr. Fredrick added that “the directive from the Director-General Budget office of the Federation cannot be said to be virement as virement can only be appropriately approved by the National Assembly, which has not done so in this case.”

The lawmakers explained that due to the compelling need for FERMA to repair and maintain dilapidated roads across the nation, the National Assembly approved a total of N21,816,546,653 out of which only N10,399,549,201 was released in October to the agency for execution of some critical capital projects especially some failed roads across the country.

They said: “FERMA has already prioritised its capital projects while it has advertised in line with the procurement Act 2007 and that contractors desirous to work for the agency have spent hard earned monies to buy tender documents, which they are now bound to lose by the directive from Director-General, budget office of the Federation. If the decision of the Budget office is not reversed, the planned execution of capital projects by FERMA and agencies of government will be crippled.”

The probe is to be undertaken by a special adhoc committee which is to report back to plenary in a week’s time.