…Ministry earmarks N1b for utility vehicles, office files
…As Fashola snubs Senate panel
From: FRED ITUA, Abuja
Members of the Senate committee on Power, on Monday, queried the Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Mustapha Baba Shahuru, and the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Frank Edozie, over alleged duplication of items in the 2018 budget estimates of the Ministry (Power).
According to details of the budget proposal which were made available during Monday’s budget defence, N120 million, N480 million and N288 million, respectively, were budgeted for purchase of utility vehicles by the Ministry.
The Ministry also earmarked N100 million for transfer and management of office files and documents. The federal lawmakers complained about the repetition of projects by the Ministry. They said year in, year out, the Ministry presents the same items in the budget and ask for more funds to execute the same projects.
Trouble started when Sen. Clifford Ordia, who represents Edo Central Senatorial District, queried the duplication of purchase of utility vehicles, captured in three separate pages of the budget document.
He also instructed the Minister and the Permanent Secretary to explain how the Ministry plans to spend N100 million to transfer files, despite another huge provision for ICT.
“I need to understand this thing. Look at the different pages. You earmarked N120 million, N288 million and N480 million for the purchase of vehicles. I do not understand. Are these vehicles different? If you add up this figure, it gives you about N888 million.
“You also said that you want to spend N100 million on transfer of office files. How do you intend to do that? The people in your office, what have they been doing? I can also see from your estimates here that you captured another item for ICT, different from the N100 million for transfer of files. You need to explain these things,” Ordia said.
Sen. Hassan Mohammed from Yobe State said lawmakers were tired of being bombarded every year with the same items. He urged the Ministry to put its house in order.
Chairman of the committee, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, who presided over the budget defence, revealed that the 2017 budget (capital) of the Ministry only recorded 18 per cent performance.
“We will take it that the 2017 budget was abysmally low at only 18 per cent performance. This is unacceptable and I need to put it on record,” Abaribe said.
There was a mild drama, when the Minister of State, Shahuru, could not respond to questions posed to him. Instead, he appealed to the committee to allow the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Edozie, to provide answers on his behalf. His appeal was rejected by lawmakers.
“You were sent here to represent the Minister. It means you are here to respond to our questions. Last week, we invited the Permanent Secretary to respond. Today, it is your turn.
“My colleagues asked me how come you are the person here and not Fashola. But I told them since you were also a Minister, you could be here to on behalf of your Minister,” Abaribe told the Minister.
Meanwhile, the substantive Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, did not show up for Monday’s defence. There was no official explanation from Fashola on why he did not turn up. Instead, his colleague, Shahuru, said he (Fashola) was attending to other state matters.
Fashola was, last Thursday, walked out by the committee, over his alleged “unpreparedness to face the committee for his 2018 budget defence.”
Abaribe-led committee had maintained that Fashola was not ready to face members. He said the Minister did not come with necessary documentations to present to members.
Abaribe had also added that the committee should have been furnished with necessary documentations to enable members peruse over them, while the defence is ongoing.
But speaking yesterday on Fashola’s non-appearance, Abaribe said: “Maybe Fashola decided to snub us because of some media reports last week. But he ought not to have been angry by that. I am sure that was why he sent you because he did not want to come here.
“I said it that it was deliberate that Fashola did not show up. What we need to scrutinise the budget was not provided. We needed some things to make the process easy. Nobody is satisfied with these vague items. We are going to have to adjourn this meeting, pending when we will get these submissions from you.”
He told the Minister of State and the Permanent Secretary to inform Fashola that he must present himself at the next get-to-be scheduled budget defence session.
“We are asking you to inform the Minister to be here to properly respond to all the questions we need to ask. We will do a comprehensive letter asking for explanation on items where we have raised questions. That will guide you in giving your submissions. We need you to be prepared when next you come,” he said.
The Minister of State and other officials of the Ministry, were in the end, told to go back and return prepared next time.