ABUJA – The National Assembly reduced its overhead budget by 25 percent in response to the economic realities in the country and boost the capital expenditure quotient in the 2015 fiscal year, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has said.
Senator Ekweremadu spoke yesterday in Abuja while declaring open a two-day workshop organised by the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI) and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) for Speakers and Clerks to the 36 State Assemblies on the Implications of Financial Autonomy for State Houses of Assembly and Strategies for its Effective Implementation.
The Senator, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, described the creation of a first line charge for the State Houses of Assembly as “one of the biggest achievements of the current constitutional amendment efforts in the pursuit of good governance, accountability, and fiscal federalism in Nigeria”.
He said: “With a first line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the State legislatures have become fully self-regulating, self-budgeting, self-reliant and wholly autonomous from executive control.
“In other words, we have effectively averted a situation where he who pays the piper dictates the tune. We have carefully enthroned the equality of all arms of government and done away with a situation where State legislatures go cap in hand to the executive arm it is supposed to oversight, for its appropriated funds, thus reducing the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances to nothing”.
He was, however, quick to add that financial autonomy “could be counter-productive if not well handled”.
The Deputy President of the Senate, emphasised that everybody in government was a stakeholder, irrespective of the arm of government he or she belongs to, hence should be ready to make sacrifice to move the nation forward.
He added: “This year, because our money is on first line charge and comes as statutory transfer, the executive could not have tampered with it. They brought our overhead the way it should be in the 2015 Appropriation Bill.
“But on our own, we in the NASS looked at the state of the economy and decided to cut our overhead cost by 25 percent. We challenged the executive to go back and do the same. The accepted the challenge and cut further their overhead budget. So, we are hoping that Nigerians would see a remarkable improvement in the capital-overhead ratio in the 2015 budget”.
He called on the Speakers and the bureaucracy of State Assemblies to do the same at the State level.
“No matter what you think should be your overhead budget, you must be sensitive to the economic situation in your states; you should be able to make sacrifice in the overall interest of your states and never see your financial autonomy as an ammunition to blackmail the executive into submission”, he admonished.
He further cautioned that “financial autonomy is not an opportunity for self-enrichment or a license to mismanage funds, but a call to greater service, prudence, and fiscal responsibility”.