Delay stalls recall of construction workers
Contrary to the Federal Government’s promise last week, it is yet to release about N362.639 billion for capital projects in the 2016 budget for Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).
A source in the Budget Department of the Ministry of Education who pleaded anonymity said yesterday that they were yet to get any release of funds from the nation’s accountant general as is the practice.
“We are yet to get any money. We only got to hear of the release in the press,” the source said.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning , Udoma Udo Udoma had last Thursday, during the breakdown of the 2016 budget declared that government was to commence the release of funds from the capital project envelope, by May 13, to fast- track the implementation of the 2016 budget.
When The AfricaNewsPress visited the Finance and Account Departments of MDAs across the Federal Secretariat in Abuja yesterday, it was discovered that none of them had received their respective capital votes.
Also, when The AfricaNewsPress called yesterday at the attorney-general’s office for details on why the money had not been released, despite pronouncement by the budget minister, a source said that the office had not received any official directive through the official platform for communication on the release of the over N300 billion capital vote.
We are yet to get any marching order from the Budget Ministry on the release of capital funds. We have our platform here where we normally interact and receive information from the budget office. There is nothing yet, the source said.
Meanwhile, the delay in release of capital funds to the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has also delayed the recall of thousands of workers sent packing from construction sites around the country in the last one year.
The minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola, had last week agreed with major contractors handling all federal highways to return to site as soon as possible, as the Federal Government planned to pay outstanding fees following the signing into law of the 2016 budget by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the highlights of major projects approved for execution in the 2016 N6.06 trillion budget, roads and bridges are to take N134.4 billion, , power N9.22 billion, railway N150 billion, aviation N5.725 billion, water N7.158 billion, housing N35.6 billion, and agriculture N5.420 billion. Others are education N3.215 billion, and health N13.9 billion
Besides, contractors have continued to besiege MDAs to solicit payment for jobs already done, or to contract new ones in view of release of the 2016 budget lately.
According to the source at the Attorney General’s Office, “whereas in the past, the Ministry of Finance was in charge of budgets and their releases to respective departments, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning is now vested with that responsibility.”
The source, however, added that what the Attorney General’s Office does is to receive the funds and channel them to the respective key players in the various ministries to inform them of the release of funds and amounts.
The source added that in the past, banks were used to send money to MDAs, adding that now reforms by government mandate the Central Bank of Nigeria to hold the funds, adding that Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) is part of the software used to share information about the release of government funds.
When contacted, Media Adviser to the Budget and Planning Minister, James Epkadem, told The Guardian that the ministry simply draws up the budget and ensures implementation through monitoring.
He said that the aspect of release of funds lies squarely with the Finance Ministry, adding that though the ministries work as a team, they have clear lines of responsibilities.