• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Budget padding: NASS has right to increase national budget, Bagudu insists

Atiku Bagudu, the minister of budget and national economic planning, has said that the National Assembly did no wrong with its insertions of new projects in the 2024 budget, stating that it has the right to do so.

The Minister stated this during a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday. He explained that the insertion of new line items in the budget to provide some dedicated projects to their constituency by the National Assembly has been ongoing since 1999.

Read also:National Assembly inserted 7,447 projects worth ₦2.2trn in 2024 budget — BudgIT

This is as BudgIT, a civic-tech non-profit organisation, on the heels of controversy stirred up by budget padding allegations made by Senator Abdul Ningi, called for a judicial pronouncement on the scope of the powers of the National Assembly in the constitution, especially as it regards the authority to arbitrarily insert new capital projects in the annual budget.

Speaking to the press Bagudu said, “The president submitted a budget to the tune of N27.5 trillion and the National Assembly in its wisdom increased it to N28.7 trillion. When we presented the budget, it was at an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar but the assembly increased it to N800 to a dollar.

Read also:Akpabio says Senate’s integrity “totally damaged” by budget padding allegation

“That created more revenue, the assembly also appropriated that the Government Owned Enterprises contribute more revenue. Then there was the increase of the budget for the judiciary, legislator and executive.

“The President in signing the 2024 appropriation acknowledged that in democracy, institutions have their power and the National Assembly has the last word.

“We read media reports about projects which were beyond what was submitted by the executive in a proposal. That is quite the case in a democracy that is evolving with a lot of demand. All elected persons, particularly those in the legislation are elected by constituency and they make a lot of demand. This is not an unusual phenomenon and they are under pressure to respect the wishes of their people by ensuring part of the public spending in a year affects the community.

“The evolution of constitutional projects and projects by national assembly members which did not begin now but begin since 1999 is a reflection of the challenge that elected persons are facing.”

Read also:Budget padding scandal puts Senate under scrutiny

He explained that there has been a long debate on the powers of the executive and the national assembly, adding the issue was yet to be resolved.

“So what is the power of the National Assembly as regards the budget, there is no supreme court judgment and the choice of our democracy is that the national assembly has the last word. Even when they passed an appropriation that assent is refused, after 30 days it becomes law. Do they have the right to increase a budget line, I will say yes,” he said.