The Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism on Tuesday questioned the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, over what they described as an annual ritual of reintroducing items for which appropriations had been made in the previous year.
Such items, according to the committee, include office equipment such as computer, furniture, generators and vehicles.
The Chairman of the committee, Fatima Raji-Rasaki, drilled Mohammed while the latter appeared before the panel to defend the budgetary estimates in the 2018 budget proposal by the ministry.
She said, “Under the capital project in 2017, there is office equipment, computers, generators and so on, and some of them are still listed under your 2018 budget. Is it every year that you will be purchasing furniture? What happened to the previous furniture?”
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr. Musbau Kayode, who was the first to respond, said, “The fund that was released were not enough this year. That is why we decided to make provisions for them in this budget. We intended to purchase two vehicles this year but we could not because of non-release of funds.”
Raji-Rasaki, however, stated that the National Assembly frowned on re-inserting items for which funds had been appropriated for in subsequent budgets of ministries, departments and agencies.
She said, “Bringing office equipment like computers every year – making it a yearly event – seems as if it is not going down well with the National Assembly. We have found them in the previous years – maintenance of furniture, buying of furniture.”
Responding, Mohammed said only 23 per cent of the capital vote of the ministry had been released by the Federal Government.
He said, “Ma, if you look at what was appropriated and what was released, especially in the area of capital, it is always about 22 to 23 per cent, which means that if we needed to buy two vehicles and the release could only buy one, we needed to seek relief in the next budget. That is why it seems as if it is a ritual. It is simply because we never get full release of either the capital appropriated or the overheads appropriated. We never get 100 per cent and this always affect the personnel cost.”
Rasaki also pointed out the N561m overheads of the ministry in 2016, saying, “You spent everything leaving the balance of just N3m.”
In his response, the minister said, “That is for overheads. And even the overheads, that (what was released) is 23 per cent of the overheads, ma. It is not as if we were given 100 per cent.”