The Senate is becoming uncomfortable with the perceived unpreparedness of the Muhammadu Buhari administration to submit to the National Assembly the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Policy (FSP) ahead of the presentation of the 2016 budget.
The concerns arose after a recent directive by Buhari asking the Ministries of Finance, Trade, Investments and Industries, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other relevant agencies to come up with new economic policies aimed at boosting manufacturing in the 2016 budget.
A source in the National Assembly told THISDAY yesterday that the Senate leadership was worried by the order, bearing in mind that only the approval of the MTEF/FSP by the National Assembly should pave the way for the preparation and subsequent presentation of next year’s budget.
Ordinarily, the MTEF/FSP should be ready for submission to the National Assembly by September at the latest, ahead of the succeeding year’s budget.
But in the absence of a Minister of Finance and Chairman of the National Planning Commission who should work with the newly appointed Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation on the MTEF/FSP and review the budgets of the federal government’s ministries, department and agencies (MDAs) to determine the necessary parameters for the MTEF/FSP, it is uncertain that the three-year rolling plan will be presented to the National Assembly next month.
There are also concerns that Buhari’s reliance on the bureaucrats in the civil service, led by permanent secretaries, who might lack the capacity and technical and special advisers that usually assist ministers, could delay the presentation of next year’s budget.
According to the source, the leadership of the Senate has expressed concern that Buhari had by his pronouncement and recent directive begun preparations for the 2016 budget without bearing in mind that the MTEF/FSP, which ought to herald the preparation of the budget, had not been conceived.
He added that if there were no signs of its preparation towards the end of August, chances are that Buhari who may not be getting the right counsel in the absence of a cabinet, could encounter difficulties.
He said: “The Senate is worried that the president has started talking about 2016 budget when there has been no mention of MTEF/FSP which should be the first thing to be considered before thinking of the 2016 budget.
“Ordinarily, the document should be received by the National Assembly in September but it is likely that they will come up with the budget without MTEF.”
While ordering a review of the economic policies for the 2016 budget, Buhari had said he would not hesitate to throw out any inherited economic policies of previous administrations if doing so would create jobs for the teeming population.
He made the remarks during a meeting with members of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) at the Presidential Villa on Monday, last week.
“We are in difficult times economically but we’ll continue to do our best for manufacturing to pick up. We must begin to behave as if we have no oil at all. We will gladly have policy somersaults if it will mean more jobs, particularly for youths.
“I campaigned on three major planks – to effectively secure our country, provide employment through revamping the economy, and wage a relentless war against corruption. I intend to keep faith with these promises,” Buhari was quoted as saying.
The 2007 Fiscal Responsibility Act stipulates that budget estimates for the next fiscal year should be presented to the National Assembly at least three months before the end of the preceding year.
Going by this provision, the MTEF/FSP, which ought to herald the budgetary estimates, should be presented to the National Assembly before the end of the third quarter.
The MTEF/FSP provides the basis for annual budgetary planning and consist of a macroeconomic framework that highlights the fiscal targets of the federal government.
The document also provides estimates on revenue and expenditure including the government’s financial obligations in the medium term.
It also spells out the projected oil benchmark, the foreign exchange and borrowing plan for the next fiscal year.