Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Ministry of Finance will soon release the second tranche of the N2.1 trillion capital expenditure for the 2017 budget.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who made the disclosure at the State House in response to enquiries by THISDAY on the implementation of the budget, said the first release of N336 billion from the capital budget was made in August shortly after the government announced its preparedness to release N350 billion.
Eventually, the government released N336 billion, leaving a balance of N14 billion which the minister said was currently being processed for eventual release.
According to her, the Ministry of Finance was last Tuesday compelled to announce the release of the N336 billion, following a report that the ministry had kept mum on the release of N350 billion shortly after the budget was signed by the then acting President Yemi Osinbajo on June 6, this year.
Adeosun, who had been summoned by the Senate last week to appear before it along with the Minister of Budget and National Planning over the perceived poor implementation of the 2017 budget, however, denied any inherent problem in the implementation of the budget.
According to her, the budget’s implementation was predicated on the release of funds on a quarterly basis, explaining that following the signing of the 2017 budget in June, the period of June and September marked the first quarter of the budget’s implementation, during which she said the government had done the needful by releasing N336 billion.
She said on this basis, the government was getting set to make the second capital release for the last quarter of the year, but was silent on the exact time the next tranche would be released.
She said the capital budget would be implemented despite the fiscal challenges confronting the nation in terms of the government’s commitment to infrastructure development and efforts to grow the economy.
“The 2017 budget was signed in June and we released N336 billion in August. I only made a statement yesterday in response to a misleading report by the press.
“That money was actually released in August and we are on course, getting set for the next set of releases. We are on course. There is always three months of the budget.
“If you work from June, the first quarter of the budget is over. So it’s the next quarter that we are getting set for. There is really no problem at all about releases. We are on course.
“Even with the fiscal challenges we have, we are committed to infrastructure expenditure that will get the economy out of the recession and indeed on the path of growth and we will continue with that.
“So the statement was only released because of the confusion that no money was released.
“We had said in the beginning that we had N350 billion and it was on the day that we said we had N350 billion that we started releasing it but there was misinformation (in the press) and the other N14 billion is being processed,” she explained.
When pressed for the exact time the next release would be made, Adeosun said the last release was still being utilised.
While signing the budget in June, Osinbajo had said the 2017 Appropriation Bill was designed to complement the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) with the aim of stimulating economic recovery.
He listed the priorities of the budget to include: macroeconomic stability, agricultural growth, energy sufficiency, improved transport infrastructure and industrialisation through support for Medium Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
The N7.44 trillion budget, with a projected fiscal deficit of N2.36 trillion, comprises N2.9 trillion recurrent non-debt expenditure, N2.177 trillion capital expenditure, N1.84 trillion for debt service and N177.4 billion for the sinking fund. The budget deficit will largely be financed through borrowings.
Osinbajo said implementation of the budget would trigger economic activities, which he pointed out would lead to job creation for young Nigerians, adding that the government was working hard to improve revenue collection efficiency through technology.
Osinbajo had also said the Treasury Single Account (TSA) was designed to improve transparency and accountability, observing that recoveries of looted funds had been factored into the budget.
However, concerns persist that the 2017 budget may fail to achieve the listed objectives, bearing in mind that less than 20 per cent of the N2.1 trillion capital budget has so far been released despite the advent of the last quarter of the year.
It was on this basis that the Senate recently raised concerns over the poor implementation of the budget and its decision to summon the two ministers responsible for its execution.