AMIDST controversy over the level of implementation of the 2012 budget, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, minister of Finance and
co-ordinating minister of the Economy, yesterday pleaded the National Assembly to wait till December before evaluating it on budget implementation efficiency.
Okonjo—Iweala, who appeared before the Senate committee on Appropriation, headed by Ahamd Maccido, however pleaded with the legislators to halt the extension of budget implementation till March, saying “the practice of budget till March is not a good budgetary practice”.
The minister, who confirmed that the 2013 Appropriation BIll would be presented next month, was summoned by the committee to explain the different figures on the level of implementation. She said “give us till the end of the year before you can judge whether the implementation is abysmally low or not.
“Please give us time because it is premature to talk about abysmally low performance;I am only pleading that you give us till the end of the year to judge. We have not had enough time to implement the budget, considering that the budget was signed March this year”.
Okonjo--Iweala had earlier apologised for her inability to appear before the Senate on Tuesday.
On her appeal for a halt to the extension of budget implementation till March, she told the senators: “I am the minister of Finance and I would not have requested for it and I will not make request for that; we should stop it” and when asked who should stop it, she said “I don’t know, but we have to stop it”.
Okonjo—Iweala, giving a breakdown of releases on capital projects from April, told the committee that out of the total N1.3 trillion released for the four months from April, N404 billion was released, while N324 billion was cash-backed and which MDAs had been able to use.
She said: “Out of the amount cash-backed, 56 per cent was used, meaning 44 per cent of the resources are not used and that means there is room for improvement in implementation and we are working hard to ensure 44 per cent is used because procurement takes some time.
“We have a proper management of resources; we have released all resources available. Ministries are not holding back any money of the nation. The funds are either used to pay pension, statutory transfers and others paid to MDAs. 44 per cent still to be used and ministers are working hard to ensure they complete process of procurement”.
Giving further breakdown, she told the committee that of the N324 billion cash-backed, 184 billion had been utilised ,which represented 56 per cent.
In answer to a question on the true financial situation of the country, Okonjo--Iweala said “the country is not broke; the country may have cash-flow issues and this is normal. You can be asset-rich and not broke.
“I want to assure you that the economy is not grounded and international agencies have rated the micro- economic system of the country as the best. We are not saying everything is perfect. We have worked on roads; stabilised micro-economy, so that we have basis to look at other areas”.
On constituency projects that had generated so much bad blood between the executive and legislature, the minister said government was in support of the projects and that the projects were captured in the budget.
She explained that contrary to insinuations, President Goodluck Jonathan was in full support, but attributed the delays in execution of projects to delays in designs of the projects.