The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, on Tuesday at the House Committee on Appropriation interactive meeting, backtracked and exonerated the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning from the allegation of budget padding.
Farouq, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Nasir Sani Gwarzo, denied saying the ministry of finance padded the budget.
She said, “Before I comment on the content of the comment, let me comment on the context. I was at the briefing when the Minister was asked a question about the code, and she said that she did not understand that, and that she would get clarification.
“Then the chairman obliged that the clarification will be brought and the matter was closed. One of the members then, in his summary, insinuated that that was padding, and that was what the press took. So, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs did not mention or use the word padding.
“She requested for time to correct this mistake that she observed. Secondly, we did not go to the media refuting or challenging, rather we wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning seeking for clarification.
“Therefore, I concur totally that what has been provided in the budget is part of our project. The only mistake was the coding which has been clarified, even before this interactive meeting
“Therefore, it was clear that it was not the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs that made the allegation. The Permanent Secretary, who stood in for the Minister, distanced her from the statement about any N206bn insertion into her Ministry’s 2023 Appropriation Bill by the Ministry of Finance.”
It would be recalled that Farouq appeared before the Senate Committee on Special Duties to defend 2023 budget proposal at the National Assembly.
She claimed that the Ministry requested for some projects for the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and the National Social Safety Net Project in the 2022 budget which was not released.
She, however, said that her Ministry was surprised that the money inserted was then 10 times of the 2023 proposed budget for her Ministry.
The Minister, who expressed surprise, said: “Yes we made mention of the projects for 2022, which was not released, and part of it was for the NEDC.
“The money was not released and now we have seen it recurring by almost 10 folds, and we are also going to clarify from the Ministry of Finance to know why this increase, despite the fact that the previous year, the money was not even released for the project. So, we will get the details then send to you on that.”
On upscaling of the National Social Safety Net Project, she said: “These projects are under the National Social Safety Net, the condition cash transfer, the updating of the national social register and the rapid response register as well to cushion the effect of inflation.
“This is all I can say for this. I cannot really give full details of how this amount is going to be utilised, because it is something that was negotiated between the Ministry of Finance and World Bank.”
Ahmed according to a statement explained that there was an error in the budget of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs as the N206bn captured in the budget proposal of the ministry was wrongly coded by the Budget Office.
Ahmed said that the N206bn alleged insertion which had generated serious reaction within the week was for the national social safety Nets Project funded by the World Bank and domiciled in the Humanitarian Ministry.
She noted that the wrong coding resulted in the item being wrongly captured as ‘purchase of security equipment’ but that it had nothing to do with Budget padding, but an oversight.
According to her, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management should have called the attention of the budget office to the anomaly like her counterparts in other ministries.
She disclosed that the Ministry of Defence, Federal Ministry of Power, among others, also committed the same error.
The Minister of Finance called for collaboration among ministries department and agencies (MDAs) of the government in a bid to forestall such oversight.
The Chairman house of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Mr Aliyu Betera, expressed the displeasure of the committee with the humanitarian minister over her continued failure to appear before the committees of the house, when summoned.