MTEF: SENATE TO PROBE N360BN SERVICE WIDE VOTES

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•Oil benchmark now $52, exchange rate, N190 per dollar
•Petrol, kerosene subsidies, SURE-P expenditure slashed
SENATORS, on Wednesday, approved the Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF), which lays the foundation for the 2015 budget projections.
The lawmakers, who approved the recommendations presented by the chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who chaired a joint committee, including National Planning; Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, also indicated their resolve to investigate the use of Service Wide Votes (SWV), a contingency fund domiciled in the Ministry of Finance.
At the plenary on Wednesday, the senators approved 18 recommendations in respect of the MTEF and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP).
They resolved to probe the N360.94 billion in the SWV, managed by the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The lawmakers said that it was imperative for the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to give details of the management of the SWV, while also approving the removal of the N63 billion Presidential Amnesty Programme included in the SWV to the Ministry for the Niger Delta.
The Senate also approved the movement of the sum of N22 billion allocated for the internal operations of the Armed Forces from the SWV to the Ministry of Defence.
The senators also approved a downward review of the amount payable for petrol and kerosene subsidies, while threatening to cancel payments for kerosene subsidy if the relevant committee cannot enforce its implementation.
According to the Senate, the amount payable for subsidy on petrol was reduced from N200 billion to N100 billion, while kerosene subsidy was reduced from N91.08 billion to N45.52 billion.
They said the drop in international prices of crude had necessitated the reductions.
Also reduced was the total expenditure for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), from N102.50 billion to N21.03 billion.
The legislators, however, decided to increase the capital votes with a slight drop in the recurrent expenditure.
The total recurrent projection dropped from N2.616 trillion to N2.584 trillion, while capital votes increased from N633.53 billion to N7000.78 billion.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, who was one of those who made comments on the MTEF, said that the management of SWV had left much to be desired.
He said: “Part of our responsibility is to ensure the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, which is one of the areas that should stabilise the economy for investors to invest more.
“Now the investors are going to Angola, because they said the oil climate in the country is not certain. By June 4, the life of this Assembly will end and if we do not pass the bill, we are responsible for the instability of the economy of this country.”
He added that the SWV was being used for matters that not legally allowed.
Senate President, David Mark, who presided over the sitting, said that the budget so far had given an indication that Nigerians would need to tighten their belts.
According to him, “what this clearly shows is that we all have to tighten our belts across the entire sectors of this government.
“We have, for the last several years, relied on oil as the main source of our revenue and I know that budget after budget, we say we will diversify the economy. Everytime this budget comes we are still repeating the same thing.
“The impression I get from it is that those who are responsible for producing the draft merely go there and reproduce what they have been bringing up. I think they need to do a little more; they may not be able to forecast accurately.
“There are a few things I think we must get right. The first thing is let there be a cut across board, the executive, the judiciary and the legislature and we are prepared to lead in this.
“The areas of leakages, we must emphasise on them, the revenue generation and collection, we must make sure that we tighten.What has impressed me in the entire discussion and the debate is the fact that this has been non-partisan; everybody has been very fair.”
Source: Tribune

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