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Budget virement culture’ll mess up NASS credibility—Expert

An economist, Dr. Ken Igboanugo has argued that introducing budget virement into Nigeria’s budgeting system will frustrate yearly budget and further suggest that the National Assembly is nothing but a rubber stamp of the executive arm.

In an exclusive interview, the expert noted that “Asking the Senate to vire a passed budget is another definition of robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

Budget virement is a system whereby what had been already appropriated to a sector is cut and pasted to another sector, thus reducing the capacity of a sector to perform for the interest of another.

Dr. Igboanugo argued that “If the Senate accepts the request, it means that Nigerian lawmakers can no longer stand on their own in making critical decision. It also means that the lawmakers are supporting the denial of budgetary allocations to sectors it has already informed on what it will work with for the financial year”.

“Request for virement means that the executive failed to do their budget preparation very well and that the lawmakers are supporting financial indiscipline.

According to him, “Asking for virement after the passage of budget by the executive means that it lacked synergy of purpose in financial discipline and may not have understood the enormity of what national budget means”.

Business Hilights recalls that the Senate had last week, refused to offer consideration to request by the executive arm of government for virement of N135bn from the 2017 budget to execute certain priority projects.

The Executive had written to the Senate to grant it a request for virement, but when the matter came up for consideration at plenary, the lawmakers kicked vehemently, saying it is unconstitutional. The lawmakers demanded that the matter be quashed.

However, it took several pleadings from the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to prevail on the Senators to down their resistance on the issue and eventually referred the matter to the committee on Appropriation for further action.

Deputy President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu described the request for virement as unconstitutional and undemocratic, stressing that if the government wanted to complete some of its priority projects; it should present a supplementary budget and not deny other sectors of projects already.

The Committee is yet to submit its report which feelers show that it may still be shut down on presentation.

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