SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday sponsored a budget reform bill that passed through first reading in the House.
The Bill if eventually passed into law will reduce controversy and allegation of budget padding that trailed the 2016 budget, as well as provide a time frame for the presentation of budget proposal by the executive to the National Assembly.
The Bill also is seeking to provide a legal framework for the reform of the Federal budget process and proposes serious penalties for violators of the Appropriation Act.
The proposed Bill when passed into law, would regulate the preparation, presentation, enactment, implementation, monitoring and oversight, and penalties for contravention of the Appropriations Act in each fiscal year.
It also provides for dispute resolution that may arise between the Executive and the Legislature before, during or after passage of the Budget.
It further proposes penalties for violation of the Appropriations Act which include written reprimand, written warning, suspension from office, surcharge, demotion or reduction in status; denial or promotion, termination of employment, impeachment and for committee chairmen in the National Assembly, removal from chairmanship of committee, among others.
Similarly, the proposed law also provides for rewards for public officers and civil servants for outstanding work which include letter of commendation, certificate of merit, public decoration, with a medal of recognition, recommendation for accelerated promotion, recommendation for national honour and gift in cash or kind among others.
It also provides for “Budget Process Calender” which stipulates time frame as follows: budget presentation within the first week of September of every year; passage of not later that 2nd week of December and assent for 30th December, among others.
Speaking on the Bill, the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to the Speaker, Turaki Hassan, said the bill “is in fulfilment of the Speaker’s pledge to reform the budget process.
“Remember that last year, the Speaker promised to introduce a series of reforms to the budgeting process to ensure that there is more citizen participation, more disclosure on the details of the budget and to make it more responsive to the need of Nigerians, among others.”
He further stated that the reforms were aimed at producing, a ”realistic, credible and lasting Budget Reform process. It will involve amending some sections of the Nigerian Constitution, such as section 318, to clearly define the financial year through which the budget must run through to ensure that its full 12 months course is completed and Section 81(1), which gives the President authority to present the estimates of revenue and expenditure ‘at any time’ within a financial year.”