House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has kicked against extra budgetary spending by National Environmental Standard and Regulations Agency (NEREA) in 2019 which amounted to N1.25billion without following due process of appropriation, describing it as illegal and total violation of the law of the land.
The committee, therefore, resolved to probe the extra budget spending to unravel the mystery behind the illegal act.
Consequently, the committee summoned the chairmen of the Senate and House Committee on Environment to appear before it to explain their role in the spending following allegations by the chief executive officer of the agency, Prof. Aliyu Jauro that the budget was approved by the committees.
Responding to query from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation before the Committee, the NESREA boss claimed that the agency had the mandate of the National Assembly to spend its internally generated revenue (IGR), insisting that the budget was approved by the lawmakers.
However, the chairman of the committee, Hon Oluwole Oke said that there was no evidence that the budget of the agency was ever tabled before the House at plenary neither was it debated nor approved by the House.
Oke directed the clerk of the committee to write letters to the chairmen of the Committees on Environment of both chambers of the National Assembly to invite them to come and explain their roles in the consideration and passage of NESREA’s 2019 budget without the budget being debated at plenary, as the laid down procedure for the budget passage of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal government (MDAs).
Oke said that both chairmen be invited for questioning as there were no evidence of the agency’s 2019 appropriation having been considered and passed at plenary or that it went through the mandatory legislative process of first, second and third reading.
He pointed out that if it was established that both the House of Representatives chairman on Environment and his Senate counterpart considered and approved the N2.5 billion budget for the agency and authorised it to spend its Internally Generated Revenue in the budget, it would amount to Acts of illegality and usurpation of the powers of the president as only he is authorized to assent to the budget for expenditure to commence.
According to him, “From details available in the 2019 submitted audited report of the Agency, there was no evidence of its budget having passed through the rungs of required legislative process of submission of its estimates from the Presidency; no evidence of its receipt at the legislature or that it was debated at plenary by the House before being committed to relevant committees for the necessary checks before it was compiled along with those of other MDAs and sent to Mr President for assent to become an Act.
“If this is so, then it amounts to the two chairmen of the NASS Environment Committees just sitting back in the corners of their offices and unilaterally approving the NESREA budget and ordering commencement of expenditure without Mr President’s assent, amounting to an act of illegality and gross insubordination.”
Oke also directed that letters be written to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and the Clerk to the National Assembly, Ojo Olatunde for proof that there was correspondences between the executive and the legislature on the movement of the Agency’s budget for the year under review.
He stressed the need to sanitise the budget process and enthrone accountability in such an important document as the Appropriation Bill.
Oke however warned heads of MDAs invited to respond to queries over their yearly financial statements but refused to honour such invitations to desist from disrespecting the parliament.