The Senate’s consideration before the passage of the revised 2020 Budget suffered a set back on Tuesday over the omission of proposed N186 billion for the health sector as intervention fund for COVID-19.
President Muhammadu Buhari had requested for the expeditious passage of the revised budget.
However, efforts to consider the budget hit the rock as it was already listed in the Order Paper for consideration on Tuesday.
But when the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, called on the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Jubril Barau, to lay the report for consideration, things took another turn.
Barau informed the lawmakers that the refusal of the Budget Office to capture the entire N500 billion intervention fund for COVID-19 in the appropriation bill has stalled further consideration of the appropriation bill.
According to him, while N314 billion was captured as part of the intervention fund, the balance of N186 billion proposed for health sector was not captured.
He said: “Upon making such observation at committee level, we quickly informed the Budget Office of the omission last week.
“Though the Budget Office as part of excuses given for the omission said since the entire N500 billion was captured in the MTEF/FSP documents already passed by the Senate, that there was no need for it to be fully captured in the budget.
“But we rejected that excuse in line with sections 80 and 81 of the 1999 Constitution, which empowers the National Assembly to appropriate every single Kobo for the Executive before spending.”
Barau said the the Budget Office admitted it was a wrong omission, but promised “to write a letter to us to be used as evidence of helping them to include it”.
He added: “If by the end of today the office still refuses to send the letter to us, we shall be left with no other alternative than to print out our report today based on proposals contained in the Appropriation Bill for consideration in plenary tomorrow.”
Infuriated by submission of the Chairman, Lawan said: “The Senate hereby advises those responsible for the budget documents and expected letter to do the needful without further delay.
“They need to be meticulous and responsible.
“The National Assembly cannot be a destination where lack of efficiency on somebody’s job would be entertained.
“If we put figures without documents, they will accuse us of padding.
“We must have the documents printed today unfailingly, lay it tomorrow and give it final consideration on Thursday.”