The Federal Government has said it would return the country back to a regular January to December budget cycle, starting with next year’s budget.
- The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, told lawmakers in Abuja while defending his ministry’s budget that the Buhari government was committed to achieving it through cooperation with the National Assembly.
- “I believe that going into 2020, this is a year that we should be able to achieve it… The President is determined to achieve it.”
- “We will be sitting down with the National Assembly so that we can achieve it, and we don’t need to do it by legislation. I think its better we do it with cooperation, working together.”
While hosting his old school colleagues in Daura last month, President Buhari said “it is on record that the 2018 budget proposals submitted to the National Assembly on November 7, 2017, was passed after seven months.”
But, the president is only telling one side of the story:
- November 7th was the earliest President Buhari ever submitted a budget in four attempts. His first budget was presented on December 22nd, 2015 (three days to Christmas and nine days to the end of the year); his second budget was submitted on 14th December, 2016 (two weeks to the end of the year); his most recent budget was presented on 19th December, 2018.
- Unless the president wants the national assembly to become a rubber-stamp like some state assemblies, it is clear that his late submissions do not give enough time for thorough work to be done.
- Even November 7th, which the president is touting as a good time is not adequate. The FG is a huge operation with tens of ministries and hundreds of agencies and parastatals with a budget amounting to trillions of naira. Also, there are two different houses of parliament which need to hear from the MDAs separately, pass the budget separately and then harmonize.
- That’s not to say that the NASS needs seven months to pass the Appropriations Act. However, they certainly need more than nine days, two weeks or even two months.
- Finally, President Buhari and the executive’s role do not end with the budget presentation. While Buhari blames NASS for the delay in passing last year’s budget, lawmakers complained that MDAs were not liaising with them. “Most of the sub-committees have a huge challenge with the MDAs because majority of the MDAs are not coming forward to interface with them. Some of the ministers will tell you that they are going outside the country and because of that the MDAs are not fully ready. So, we don’t have the reports yet,” a lawmaker told the senate plenary in March 2018.
Bottom Line: Having the budget submitted and passed early would be great for the economy. A return to January-December cycle would be great as well. Changing all of that requires great collaboration and speed from the two arms of government involved in the process, but change must begin with the executive.