By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives joint Committee on Finance, Loans and Aids, Appropriation, National Budget and Research Office and Customs yesterday expressed dismay over the non-appearance of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of Government, MDAs as they failed to appear before it to discuss the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF for the 2019 budget.
The non-appearance of the critical stake holders did not go down well with the committee members who vowed that the 2019 budget must be considered and passed in record time.
While ruling for adjournment, Chairman of the Committee, Rep Babangida Ibrahim, (APC, Katsina) said” we have resolved that this budget must be passed as quickly as possible but as you can see, in the absence of key agencies that are not here, we have to adjourn.
“This is because of the importance of the document. I wonder what national assignment that is more important.
Lamenting that practically all the relevant agencies were not present at the budget defense, Ibrahim said: “So, what are we doing here?
“You can see that the House has sent a notice of invitation to all the stakeholders and MDAs involved in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper so that we can discuss it against the backdrop of the preparation of the 2019 budget.
‘We are here today but unfortunately, we discovered that almost all the heads of the agencies that are key in discussing the MTEF are not here.
“ The minister of national planning is not here, the minister of finance is not here, Accountant-General of the Federation is not here, Comptroller of Customs is not here, chairman of FIRS is not here, GMD of NNPC is not here, director of DPR is not here, CBN is not here. In fact, almost all of them. The only person that is available is the DG, Debt Management.
“So you can see that we cannot proceed to discuss the MTEF in the absence of these key players. That is why we have to adjourn the meeting. We are going to give them a new date next week. We hope they will attend to our invitation”
Speaking almost in the same vein, a co- Chairman of the Committee on Aids, Loans & Debt Management, Rep Ajayi Adeyinka representing Ife federal constituency, Osun State said:
“The chairman on Finance has answered you. He said what is happening in the committees now is budget performance. So, nobody is doing budget defense.
“We have adjourned until the agencies are present. That is the current position of the committee.”
Asked if it could be concluded that nothing has happened to the budget since it was presented to the National Assembly by the presidency, he said: “On the budget, the MTEF is about to be considered. There are two chambers; there is a Senate and there is a House of Representatives. In the House of Representatives, the budget was sent by Mr. President has been passed to the Appropriation Committee where all other committees are sub-committees.
The position of the chairman of the joint committee on the consideration of the MTEF is that all the committees who are sub-committee of the appropriation are engaging in budget performance appraisal waiting for the MTEF to be passed before budget defense.