The House of Representatives Committee on Telecommunications on Tuesday took a swipe at the Ministry of Communications for its inefficiency in the preparation of the documents on the Ministry’s 2017 Budget performance and 2018 budget projection.
The Committee which was on an oversight visit to the Ministry decline further discussions on the presentation after some of its members discovered many irregularities in figures quoted in the scanty documents meant to explain the performance of last year’s budget as well as the 2018 budgetary projections.
An impeccable source at the budget presentation, told our correspondent that, “after the Minister, Barrister Adebayo Shittu made his presentation, a member of the Committee, Hon. Anayo Edward faulted his claim that the 2018 revenue projection of One Billion, Three Hundred Million Naira (N1,300,000,000) doubled the revenue projection in the preceding year which was Six Hundred Million Naira (N600,000,000)”.
The minister had said that “it is projected that revenue generation from sale of forms, spectrum licenses and renewal fees and other sources in 2018 would rise to about N1,300,000,000 (One Billion Three Hundred Million Naira), twice the size of last year because of the envisaged installation of Radio Monitoring Equipment”
Hon. Anayo said it was wrong to say the 2018 revenue projection doubled that of 2017 because the difference between the two figures is more than half. He said such assertion is misleading.
Another member, Hon Abiodun Awoleye pointed out lack of correlation in figures on pages of a document served members while he also criticized non-clarity of some of the figures quoted.
Hon. Kehinde Odeneye queried the ministry for not stating the status of the Rural Telephone Project for which money was appropriated in last year’s budget, adding that the minister did not specify where the projects are located and if they are working.
Two other members were not comfortable with irregularities in figures quoted on pages of another document presented.
Hon Anayo asked the chairman to discontinue the presentation because it is against parliamentary procedure to work on an incorrect or uncompleted document because doing so will be efforts in futility.
He urged his colleagues to reject the plea by the Committee chairman, Hon Saheed Fijabi that the Minister should be given the chance to answer questions raised by members.
Hon. Awoleye who specifically pointed that this would not be the first time the Ministry will be making an un-coordinated presentation and submitting incorrect documents to the Committee added that it would be wrong for the Committee to entertain further comments on the presentation. Rather, he supported the suggestion by Hon. Anayo that the Ministry make a re-presentation.
On his own part, Hon. Odeneye said it is amazing that in a few pages documents, almost ten errors were detected.
He said it is wrong for members to be making corrections on the document, rather, he said the ministry should correct the documents and re-present them during budget defence at the National Assembly.
Apparently arm-strung by his members’ decisions, the chairman, Hon. Fijabi succumbed to members request for a re-presentation. He said, “I think there would not be any room for the discussion of the document based on irregularities discovered. Like my members have said, I think the ministry has to correct the documents and present it again during the budget defence.
“As I said earlier, our visit is a basic parliamentary one in furtherance of our duty to look into the books of the ministry. We are here to perform our duty, nobody is here to witch hunt anybody”, he stated.
Admitting the errors and taking full responsibility for the irregularities, Barr. Shittu on behalf of the ministry apologized to the House Committee, saying that there was no justification for the inefficiency.
The minister said, “I want to apologise on behalf of the Ministry. I want to take full responsibility for these mistakes and want to assure you that we will put our house in order.
“I want to assure you that before the end of this week, we must have made necessary corrections present a correct document to the office of the Committee chairman”, he promised.
Earlier in his welcome address, the minister said though the ministry initially has differences with the Committee, a cordial working relationship has since existed between the two, while he promised that the ministry under his watch will not compromise in complementing the effort of the Buhari administration to protect the interests of Nigerians.