The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, on Monday appeared before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs to defend the N9.88bn budgeted by his office for 2017.

Lawal, who was billed to appear before the lawmakers on Thursday, had sent the Permanent Secretary (General Services) Office of the SGF, Mohammed Bukar, but the committee rejected the representation, insisting that the SGF must appear in person.

While appearing before the lawmakers on Monday,  Lawal explained  that his absence was caused by the death of the wife of the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung.

The meeting between the SGF and the committee, which lasted about 45 minutes, was attended by the Chairman, Tijjani Kaura (APC, Zamfara North) and the Vice-Chairman, Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna North).

Speaking on the 2017 budget proposal of the Office of the SGF, Lawal said his office proposed N9.882,782, 935 for 2017.

Out of this, the SGF said N3,408,763,591 was proposed for personnel costs; while N3,781,628,226 was proposed for overheads, an increase of N2bn when compared to the 2016 appropriation.

According to the SGF, the amount proposed for overheads would be used for funding the activities and programmes of other offices headed by the permanent secretaries in the OSGF, as well as activities and programmes of political office holders such as the special advisers and senior special assistants to the President.

Lawal also said his office budgeted N2,692,391,118 for capital projects for the fiscal year.

Lawal decried that funds appropriated to the Office of the SGF in the 2016 budget were grossly inadequate to meet some of the responsibilities of the office.

The lawmakers, in their separate responses, agreed with Lawal that the 10 per cent release by the Ministry of Finance to the OSGF in 2016 was insufficient, particularly against the backdrop of what was proposed.

The committee pointed out that the development was an indication that there was a problem between the Budget Office and the Ministry of Finance, which must be tackled.

Hunkuyi, while commending the Federal Government for adequate releases to ministries, departments and agencies in 2016, stated that the committee would investigate the poor release of funds to the OSGF.

“Something is definitely wrong and we need to get to the root of what went wrong. If it is a problem between finance and budget, we need to get at it and understand what it is. It is unlike this government to do that. We need to come down to what went wrong; where and who is in charge of that and remedy it,” he said.

Drawing the attention of the SGF to the non-payment of allowances to former presidents, Hunkuyi demanded to know if same was captured in the 2017 budget.

The SGF, in his response, said the allowances for former presidents had been “sufficiently” covered in the 2017 budget, “though not openly budgeted for in the proposal.”

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Author: Femi Erinle
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