Budget 2020: Senate tinkers with timetable, shifts deadline

Despite its avowed commitment to giving accelerated consideration to processing of the 2020 budget proposal, the Senate has run into hitches with its schedule for the exercise.

Consequently, it has reviewed its budget consideration timetable to allow most committees yet to conclude work, and process their reports, to do so within seven days.

It would be recalled that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had warned that any minister or head of any government agency that failed to defend their budgets by the end of October would not be given another opportunity by the National Assembly to do so.

Lawan, who is also the Chairman of the National Assembly, in his remarks during the presentation of the 2020 budget by President Muhammadu Buhari, said all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were expected to appear before the committees for the defence of their budget estimates within the month of October for timely passage of the budget.

“We have earmarked the month of October to be the sole window for all budget defence activities this year, by all MDAs. In this regard, our committees will be expected to conclude their work on budget defence within October.

“The subsequent necessary legislative work will be carried out in November and December, leading to the eventual passage before the end of this year,” Lawan had said.

However, the Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Senator Barau Jibrin, confirmed that as it stands, the committees still have enough time to go ahead with their budget defence sessions with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Barau told The Guardian that all MDAs yet to defend their budget proposals before the Senate committees could still do that throughout next week.

“We are very much on course; the exercise of budget defence with MDAs can actually continue and they will hold throughout next week,” he explained.

In the earlier schedule, the various committees of the Senate, which were supposed to gather information from MDAs on the budget, ought to have turned in their reports to the Appropriation Committee to begin the real process of turning the budget 2020 bill into law.

The Senate suspended plenary on October 15, 2019 for two weeks to allow the standing committees conclude work and submit their reports so that by Tuesday, October 29, plenary sessions would resume, while the Appropriation Committee alone would begin its work.

But as at Friday, none of the 68 committees had submitted any report to the Appropriation Committee. In fact, many committees are just inviting the MDAs for their budget defence meeting this week, just as it was learnt that some other committees were yet to begin processing their reports.

Another lawmaker, who preferred anonymity, hinted that the Senate may, again suspend plenary session for one more week to allow committees conclude their budget defence sessions with MDAs.

The Standing Rule of the Senate states that: “When the Appropriation Bill has been read the second time, it shall be committed to the Appropriation Committee. The standing committees of Senate shall for this purpose be deemed to be sub-committees of the Appropriation Committee and shall consider estimates for the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, which come under their charge. After consideration, the sub-committees shall report back to the Appropriation Committee.”

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