2017 budget may be delayed as Senate, Udoma exchange blames over MTEF
There are indications that the call by some experts to sack the Minister of National Planning, Mr. Udo Udoma for poor performance may not be in error as the Senate Thursday observed that the MTEF lately presented to the Red Chambers by the Minister in reference to the 2017 budget presentation was virtually empty.
The development caused yesterday’s planned debate on the matter to hang in the balance as the upper chamber took a swipe at the Executive for blaming lawmakers for the delay in the process.
The Senate specifically criticised the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, of reportedly blaming the legislature for not making the Executive to meet the October target of sending the 2017 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly.
Report say the Minister had in a national daily indicted the lawmakers saying the lawmakers’ failure to give the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper was delaying the laying of the Appropriation Bill before the Senate.
But in a thundering reaction, Leader of the Senate, Senator Ali Ndume, said in the national daily, which was titled: ‘Budget 2017: Blame National Assembly for failure to meet October target’, the minister was quoted as stating that the suspension of the debate on the MTEF and FSP, which would be the foundation for the budget, had stalled his ministry’s plan to lay the 2017 budget estimates before the National Assembly.
Continuing, aggrieved Ndume, said, “We received the MTEF on 30th of September instead of submitting it according to the law not later than the 1st of September. That is not even the problem. I have a copy (of the MTEF and FSP), I went through (it) and the copies have been circulated. I talked to some experts. Even in this chamber, we have people we can call experts.
“If you look at this document that they call the MTEF, it is empty; it is empty and it doesn’t contain anything. If you have nothing, how do you consider nothing?
“Going through (it) and knowing that it is empty, on October 19, this is the letter I wrote to the Minister of Budget and National Planning. In the third paragraph, I stated, ‘To enable the Senate objectively to review the MTEF from a holistic fiscal perspective, we deem it necessary to invite you to a meeting to brief the leadership of the Senate on Tuesday, November 1.’ But the minister failed to turn up.
“Before then, I said, ‘You are requested to please send the following documents ahead of the meeting’, because that is what will make us to have something to consider. I said, ‘(a) the Medium-Term Development Plan (even a draft copy) upon which the 2017-2019 MTEF is founded;’ you know that is important.
“Secondly, I requested for a comprehensive report on the implementation of the 2016 budget (as of the third quarter, that is, September 30); that is also an important ingredient.”
However, Ndume agreed that “We cannot afford to start the 2017 budget process with his blame game. This Senate is the Nigerian Senate. This Senate especially, we have the opposition that is cooperating with us and we have the majority in this Senate”.
“It is not like we are working against the government but we know what we are doing and we should do it right. When they bring nothing and we ask for something so that we will do it properly, they spoke to the newspaper to start blaming the National Assembly.