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Senate panel grills Finance Minister over alleged budget padding

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The Senate Committee on Appropriations on Monday queried the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, over allegations of padding the 2023 budget proposals of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

The Minister, who appeared before the panel in Abuja, blamed affected Ministers and heads of agencies for not doing due diligence when the proposals were made available to them for scrutiny before the final submission of the fiscal document to the Federal Executive Council for approval and subsequent presentation to a joint session of the National Assembly on October 7, 2022.

Ahmed said: “All the proposed budgetary sums like the N206billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, N8.6billion in the Ministry of Defence budget and N195.4billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power, etc, were all captured before presentation by Mr President.

“Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of agencies selected for projects execution for the sole purpose of transparency.

“The totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771trillion.

“Had heads of the affected MDAs carried out thorough scrutiny of their budgetary proposals, the issue of insertion or budget padding wouldn’t have arisen at all.

‘’It the realization of this that made the Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, to apologise after feigning ignorance of the N8.6billion in his Ministry’s budget during interface with Senate Committee on Defence.”

Apparently satisfied by the Minister’s explanation, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jibrin Barau (APC – Kano North) said the clarifications were well understood by all the committee members and commended her for ensuring transparency by capturing of such loans or grants in the budget.

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