The House of Representatives Committee on Communications has rejected the N6.97billion budget of the Ministry of Communications for failing to provide satisfactory details of its 2016 budget spending.
For capital projects, the Ministry is proposing to spend N5.964billion, N742.880million for personnel while N216, 880 million was proposed for overhead cost.
For emphasis, the Saheed Fijabi-led Committee asked the Minister, Adebayo Shittu to provide a number of documents on projects, project locations, third party contracts, receipt vouchers for conferences, trainings as well as nominal roll for the Ministry among others.
The Committee said it will not consider the 2017 budget estimates of the Ministry until it embarked on an on-the-spot assessment of the projects contained in the 2016 budget document.
The budget session began on a tense note when the Minister refused to explain the details of the budget saying the Permanent Secretary, Sunday Echono, who is the Accounting Officer of the Ministry was in the best position to respond to the specifics of the 2016 document.
In his presentation, the Minister said contrary to what was on record, the Ministry actually received N3,095,437billion as against N4,912,735, 231billion that was recorded for it on Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMIS) platform for its 2016 capital expenditure.
The breakdown showed that of the 48 new and one on-going projects, the Ministry recorded 100 per cent performance on capital budget release of N3,095,437billion that was fully accessed.
For the year under review, N216, 791,496million was appropriated for overhead while N138,905,138million was released leaving a balance of N77.9million; N600,239,582million was also appropriated for personnel cost out of which N695, 877, 059 was released.
Totally shocked about the finances of the Ministry, the lawmakers requested for explanations why money released for personnel was greater than money appropriated.
The Committee asked why N8million was spent on presentation at Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, while seeking explanation on the procurement of computers for N12million.
In addition, the Committee expreseed doubt over the Ccapital expenditure item whereby N4. 9million was spent on supervision of the unspecified work.
Construction of Information Communications Technology (ICT) centers in some parts of the country also came under scrutiny as the Ministry failed to execute any of the projects, claiming lack of funds.
The Committee wondered why projects that benefit Nigerians directly were not prosecuted by the Ministry.
Fijabi said: “With the document before us, there is a need for this Committee to oversight these projects because Nigerians have been blaming the legislature for not doing its job well.
“Going forward, we have to look at the procurement process and on-the-spot assessment of these projects has become inevitable.
“In addition, the Ministry should furnish the Committee with its nominal roll, indicating old and new workers.
“The provision of the details requested will determine how soon we will embark on the oversight visit and the consideration of the Ministry’s 2017 budget estimates.”