Reps Query Buhari Over N500bn Social Welfare Budget By John Ameh
The House of Representatives took the Federal Government to task on Tuesday over the N500bn earmarked in the 2016 budget for job creation and provision of other social services to vulnerable people.
The House Committee on Legislative Budget/Research and the Committee on Poverty Alleviation queried the non-utilisation of the “huge budget” at a meeting with the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, in Abuja.
The lawmakers said they were concerned especially that the year would wind down in about four months.
Buhari had signed the country’s budget of N6.06trillion, which incorporated the N500bn, into law last May.
However, lawmakers said they had observed that the N500bn remained “idle” amid increasing socio-economic pressures on the would-be beneficiaries.
The Chairman, Committee on Legislative Budget/Research, Mr. Golu Timothy, for example, told Uwais that it would appear that her office was overwhelmed by the size of the N500bn and was facing challenges rolling out plans for the implementation.
Timothy said, “Importantly, we must note that a budget of N500bn coordinated basically through one office is huge.
“Transparency is key and we at the House of Representatives want to ensure that the office is competent enough to coordinate such a huge amount of funds without being overwhelmed by the job.
“We, however, believe that our synergy will assist you also to implement these programmes efficiently and effectively and thereby give comfort to Nigerians that this is not another white elephant project like PAP, MAMSER, NAPEP, Peoples Bank, etc.”
Out of the N500bn, lawmakers said N300bn was voted for recurrent expenditure, broken into four sub-components.
These include, “Conditional Cash Transfers; Home-Grown School Feeding Programme; Post NYSC Entrepreneur Development Programme; Micro Credit Loans.”
But, members observed that there was no concrete evidence that vulnerable people were already benefiting from the programmes, with just four months to the end of the year.
The Chairman, Committee on Poverty Alleviation, Mr. Mohammed Wudil, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Kano State, complained that poverty was biting harder in spite of the government having a social security package in place.
“The huge amount that was allocated to the office needs to be justified particularly now that poverty has gone so high in the country”, he said.
But, Uwais called for patience as she responded to the queries raised by the lawmakers.
She told the session that a lot of preliminary work and discussions with the various state governments had been done on how the programmes would be executed.
She said the programmes would take off fully in September – about a week away.
According to Uwais, Buhari placed the social welfare programmes under the direct supervision of the Office of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to underscore the importance the government attached to their successful implementation.
She explained that efforts had been made to ensure “effective monitoring and evaluation, standard delivery mechanisms, avoid duplication of roles and responsibilities, proper coordination and synergy amongst key ministries, departments and agencies.”
Uwais added that the states too were expressing commitment to the programmes.
“So far, nine states have opened a social register and 10 states have started the home-grown feeding programme for school pupils across Nigeria.
“What we proposed was N70 per meal, but some states were able to perform the feat with N40 per meal,” she told the lawmakers.