The Permanent Secretary of the State House, Mr Jalal Arabi, during the defence of the Presidential Villa’s 2017 budget, yesterday, before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, disclosed that N94.5 million has been proposed for the purchase of treated (bullet-proof) tyres in 2017, representing 50 percent increase compared to what was budgeted in 2016.
Arabi said the budget cut in 2016, from N16.5 billion to N13. 5 billion, in 2017, represents 18.08 percent reduction in comparison with the sum appropriated last year.
Arabi, while defending the 2017 State House budget proposal before lawmakers, told the committee that despite its decision to cut down on this year’s annual total budget, an increase was, however, made, particularly, for routine maintenance of villa facilities, electricity charges and overhead expenditures.
He explained that some factors such as exchange rate and inflationary trends were responsible for the increase in the items contained in this year’s proposal.
“Chairman, may I kindly recall that during our 2016 budget defence before this distinguished committee, I noted that the figure of N3.9 billion provided for maintenance of villa facilities was based on actual commitment in 2015. Sadly, due to the prevailing circumstances, the dynamics changed, even while presenting the 2016 proposals.
“In 2017, we have considered some of these factors, including exchange rate and inflationary trends, and humbly proposed a modest provision of N4.9 billion for same services and beyond.”
Giving reasons behind the increase in funding for electricity payment, Arabi explained that N45.3 million which was approved in 2016 budget, was increased to N319.6 million in 2017 to cover current and outstanding bills which the insufficient sum appropriated in 2016 budget failed to cover.
“N45.3 million, only, was approved in the 2016 budget for this purpose. Suffice it to inform that the State House electricity bill for 2016 alone as forwarded by Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) for the State House Abuja was N252 million with another outstanding liabilities of over N300 million for state house, Lagos facilities.
“Clearly, the provision in the 2016 budget could not accommodate this. Mr. Chairman, it may interest this distinguished committee to note that in 2016, it took the management of the State House the installation of metros to ensure proper billing to a reasonable figure. However, since these bills are reconciliations, we have made a modest provision for N319.6 million for 2017, to settle current and outstanding bills as noted above,” Arabi said.
He N5.08 billion is being proposed for overhead expenditure in 2017 as against the 2016 appropriation of N3.85 billion.
Arabi further disclosed that the amount proposed for capital was reduced from N11.1 billion in 2016 to N6.7 billion in 2017, while recurrent was increased to N6.8 billion this year.
Two members of the committee, Senators Duro Faseyi and Joshua Lidani expressed displeasure at the level of releases by the Ministry of Finance to the State House, pegged at N5.196 billion representing 46.64 percent.
Lidani said capital releases to the state house was not encouraging. “You seem to be concerned about public criticism, however, we need to ensure that funds are released, so the state house can be equipped to do what it ought to do.
“Mr. Permanent Secretary, you need to do more to ensure adequate provision for the state house clinic, because it is not only you that the clinic should serve, but, also, those outside.
“Overall, I think you performed, but you have under-performed. Next time, I think you should do what is right and not listen to what the public says,” Liman said.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Tijjani said: “Most of the agencies have received 70 percent releases, and I wonder why your case is different.
“I noticed while some agencies have their budgets increased, yours have gone down by 18 percent. I’m beginning to think that might be as a result of your modesty or the change agenda.
“Also, I think we need to access funds for the medical centre, since we do not have to subject it to unnecessary hardship,” Tijjani said.