An official of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, FRC, Charles Abana, has advised the Federal Government to begin early process of 2019 budget to enhance its smooth and speedy passage.
Mr Abana, the Head of Legal, Investigation and Enforcement gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said returning the budget cycle to January to December fiscal year would be possible based on understanding and cooperation among all parties involved.
“The process of 2019 budget should have started by now, all that needed to be done is to make adjustments to the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which serves as the guide for preparing the budget.
“Budget call circulars by now should have gone out, processes for 2019 budget at this time of the year ought to have started and I believe it has.
“All that needs to be done is to adjust or make necessary inputs into the MTEF that we already have running from 2018-2020 so that we can have it approved at the Federal Executive Council, FEC, level.
“After that is done, then they pass it on to the National Assembly, because according to the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007, every budget must be based on an approved and duly passed MTEF,” the official said.
According to Abana, it is important that the process for drafting the MTEF begins early as prescribed by the Act so that by the end of August, there will be a framework that covers 2019.
“Once that is done and taken to the National Assembly and work is finalised on it early enough, that will be the basis for the Appropriation Bill that will be sent hopefully before the end of the year to the National Assembly.’’
Mr Abana, however, expressed optimism that if the process begins early with the cooperation of the legislature, the issue of delay in the budget passage would be over.
He said if the country could not meet up with the January- December cycle, latest within the first quarter of 2019, the budget should be passed and signed.
“This will be an improvement on the current trend and going forward, we can then stabilise but I cannot guarantee that it will happen from next year.
“We just hope that at least if we can get it done before the end of Feb. 2019, or before the elections that will be a good sign”, he said.
Mr Abana said it was commendable that President Muhammadu Buhari mentioned that the executive was very committed to working with the legislature to rectify the budget year and its timely passage.
Mr Buhari, while signing the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law promised to work with the National Assembly to improve the budgeting process and restore the country to the January-December fiscal cycle.
He expressed the hope that it would materialise so the nation could have subsequent budgets passed early and implemented according to what was contained in it.
This, he said would ensure proper tracking of the projects that were captured in the budget for better execution.
The official said that the delay in passage of the budget usually affected certain projects like road construction that should be carried out during the dry season.
Speaking on the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget, he said it was a very bold one and the biggest the nation had so far signed.
The budget was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 20, after it was increased from N8.61 trillion by the National Assembly by inputting other projects.
Mr Abana said that the ongoing issue of projects proposal in the budget either by the executive or legislative arms was not a bother to citizens as they were more interested in getting the budget executed.
“In all these, what is most important is to have a good percentage, possibly above 75 per cent of the capital projects in the budget executed.
“So, now that we have a short term for the year to run out, we hope that all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and other officers who are responsible for the budget will double up.
“We hope they will double up and do what needs to be done early enough so that we can see the impact of this budget on the common people.
“Whether it is a project put in by the National Assembly or the one originally provided for by the president, the important thing is the implementation.
“What we want to see is that developmental projects are going on and people are reaping the benefits,” the official said.
Mr Abana, however, urged the Ministry of Finance to release funds early enough so that capital projects would begin to run its course early.
He said that the FRC would continue to monitor the budget to ensure its effective implementation.