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The House of Representatives on Tuesday confirmed that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, breached the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.

The House said the minister breached the Act by failing to attach the details of the budget of the 31 government agencies listed under the law to the 2014 budget currently before the National Assembly.

A six-man advisory committee, which the House set up on Tuesday last week to guide it on whether members should debate the budget or not, laid its report on Tuesday.

The committee noted that Okonjo-Iweala failed to comply with the provision of Section 21(II) of the Act, where she was required to attach the details of the budget of the agencies for consideration by the National Assembly.

Among the agencies, described as “big earners and spenders”, are the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Central Bank of Nigeria ; and the Nigerian Port Authority.

The report observed that what the minister attached to the national budget was  the “summary” of the budget of the agencies and not the detailed breakdown as required by law.

“As a committee, the documents attached to the budget do not fulfill the requirement of the Act because they contain just the summary.

“Section 39 of the Act even says a breach of the Act is criminal,” the Chairman of the committee and chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Mr. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, told members as he presented the report on Tuesday.

However, the committee further recommended that the budget debate should go on “in national interest” so long as Okonjo-Iweala would have provided the details before the budget was passed.

The committee argued that in spite of the established breach of the Act, the House would not stop the budget debate because it was equally an obligation under Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution for the House to pass the budget of the country.

Sam-Tsokwa spoke further, “The breach of the Act was by the minister; there was a clear breach and the minister has to properly provide those details in compliance with Section 21 of the Act.

“It is the conclusion of the committee that the budget debate will go on for national interest while the minister complies with the law.”

Ruling on the report, the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, said the point of order raised by a member of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, was “sustained.”

It was Jime’s point of order that stalled the debate last week, as he had observed that the budget was in breach of the Act.

Tambuwal ruled that the report would guide the House as members debated the budget.

The speaker had blamed the rush with which the budget was sent to the National Assembly without the details of the agencies on jostling for political office positions ahead of 2015.

Punch newspaper

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