Reps panel summons committee chairmen over agency’s budget

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has invited the Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Environment to appear before it and explain their alleged approval of funds amounting to N1.25bn granted to the National Environmental Standard and Regulations Agency without following due process of appropriation in 2019.

The committee invited the chairmen based on the allegations by the Director-General of NESREA, Prof Aliyu Jauro, that the extra-budgetary spending was approved by the Senate and House committees, which the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation queried.

Responding to the query before the committee, Jauro had alleged that NESREA had the mandate of the National Assembly to spend its Internally Generated Revenue, insisting that the budget was approved by the lawmakers.

Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, at the committee’s investigative hearing, however, stated that there was no evidence that NESREA’s budget was ever laid before the House in plenary or debated and approved by the chamber.

Consequently, Oke directed the Clerk to the committee to write to the Chairmen of the Committees on Environment of both chambers of the National Assembly, inviting them to come and explain their roles in the consideration and passage of NESREA’s 2019 Budget without following the procedure of passing budgets of Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

Oke said if it was established that the chairmen considered and approved the N2.5bn budget for NESREA and authorised the agency to spend its IGR in the budget, it would amount to illegality and usurpation of the powers of the President who is the only person authorised to assent to the budgets for expenditure to commence.

He said, “From details available in the 2019 submitted audited report of the agency, there was no evidence of its budget having passed through the rungs of required legislative process of submission of its estimates from the presidency; no evidence of its receipt at the legislature or that it was debated on at plenary by the House before being committed to relevant committees for the necessary checks before it was compiled along with those of other MDAs and sent to Mr President for assent to become an Act.

“If this is so, then it amounts that the two chairmen of the NASS environment committees are just sitting back in the corners of their offices and unilaterally approving NESREA budget and ordering commencement of expenditure without Mr President’s assent, amounting to acts of illegality and gross insubordination.”

Oke also directed that letters be written to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; and the Clerk to the National Assembly, Amos Ojo, for proof that there were correspondences between the executive and legislature on the movement of NESREA’s budget for the year under review.

The chairman stressed the need to sanitise the budget process and uphold accountability in such an important document as the Appropriation Bill.

Oke also warned heads of MDAs who were invited to respond to queries over their yearly financial statements but refused to honour such invitations to desist from dishonouring the parliament.

The lawmaker threatened to report such MDAs to the President on the development.

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