The unapproved budgetary spending of over N503 million by INEC without the approval of the National Assembly has stirred up concerns. The National Assembly Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, on Thursday during the 2018/2019 budget defence in Abuja, expressed its concern over the additional budgetary spending by INEC without applying for virement from the National Assembly.
The INEC Chairman, Yakubu Mahmud, came under fire on Thursday when it was discovered that the commission had spent above its budgetary expenditure without the approval of the National Assembly. Some of the areas where such extra budgetary expenditure was observed by the committee were security services, office rent and general services, amongst others.
In security services, N150 million was appropriated but the sum of N194.8 million was spent by the commission. N100 million was budgeted for office rent but the commission spent N232.1 million, just as it spent N440.8 million for general services, whereas the National Assembly budgeted N342,000,000.
The issue was heavily scrutinized when it was brought up by Ibrahim Babangida (Katsina), who asked the INEC Chairman to explain why the commission chose which of the item to effect extra budgetary spending. He further said that the action of the commission was in contravention of the 1999 Constitution that stipulates that funds should not be expended outside what has been appropriated by the National Assembly.
Fred Agbedi (Bayelsa) queried the INEC chairman to tell the committee the extant laws the commission relied on to spend money beyond appropriation. He said that in spite of the emergency mandating the commission to spend fund beyond appropriation, such extra budgetary spending should be done with request for virement and approval by the National Assembly.
The INEC Chairman’s Defence
The INEC chairman came up with a defence as to why such amount was spent. He said that the spending was based on emergency situations and in line with the independence of the commission to carry out its responsibilities.
Yakubu said the commission’s budget status gave it the flexibility to move funds from one head to another in its bid to meet with the demands of its mandate.
When Babangida Ibrahim pointed out that the commission needs to make public other sources of revenue to warrant such expenditure above approved expenditure.
Yakubu’s response was:
“There are some activities we needed to undertake constitutionally and they are time-bound. At that time we received no money for the 2019 general elections and we operate a one line budget.Recall that, if you look at the Appropriation Act of 2018, the only thing you see there is N45.5bn and we have to prioritize and re-prioritize within the envelope. We did not go outside the envelop, it was just a very difficult thing for us, I understand the point made by honourable Babangida, honestly it has been recurring, the argument here is that we moved funds from one head to another and did we now apply for virement? You will not see this kind of thing happening in 2019, in 2020 it is not there, it was just sheer pressure to accommodate these activities.”