INABILITY of the Presidency to draw its budgetary allocations is hampering the implementation of its programmes and posing a challenge to performance, the Permanent Secretary, State House, Tijjani Umar, said yesterday.
He told members of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, who were in the State House on an oversight visit, that some of the facilities at the nation’s seat of power have become obsolete.
Umar took the Committee on an inspection tour of State House facilities, including the new site for the proposed VIP State House Clinic, which is located within the precincts of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.
The Chief of Staff (CoS) to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari led State House officials, to receive the Senate committee members.
The state of the-art-clinic billed for completion in the next two years before the end of the Buhari-led administration.
Speaking about the challenges posed by the non-release of the State House annual budgetary allocations, the permanent secretary told his guests that State House got N5,083 billion (about 58 per cent) of its N8.699 vote in 2018 fiscal year. The balance of N3, 616 billion was not released, he said.
In 2019, he said that out of the N6, 955 billion budgeted, only about N2 billion (about 38 per cent) was released, leaving a balance of about N4 billion as the shortfall,
He, however, said that last year’s N4, 878 billion appropriation was fully released.
Fielding questions from reporters, the permanent secretary noted that the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has a adversely affected the economy.
Asked how the State House management has been coping with the challenges, he said: “First and foremost, let me say that we are privileged to be in this position, to be able to discharge these huge responsibilities and I’m also happy that you raised the issue of funding challenges.”
“I also want to use the opportunity to distinguish very clearly between appropriation and release. Just like you mentioned now, in 2018, about N8 billion was appropriated, out of which only about N5 billion was released. Definitely, looking at the enormity of the challenges that we are dealing with from day to day, that is affecting our performance.
“However, we are in a tradition of prudence and we also have not lost sight of the challenges that we have internationally, especially with COVID-19 in regard to how much money in the country in its entirety makes.
“However, I would like to say that the State House needs quite a formidable level of support and improvement in the funding, especially because we are dealing with phasing out a lot of infrastructures that has come to the end of their lifespan.
“We have the issue of our ICT infrastructure, we have the issue of our equipment in the Conference Centre here, kitchen equipment, we have the issue of telecommunications, and operational and utility vehicles that are gradually coming to the tail end of their lives and we need to replace them.
“But majorly, I think the biggest intervention we require is in building and construction of the Presidential wing of the State House Clinic, which is of a strategic national importance and it’s being done in form of a legacy project.
“And by the time this administration leaves office, we would have the Presidential Wing of the State House Clinic in place so that it will be very clear that all the observations and all the hopes and aspirations that the general public has expressed of the State House Clinic and its facilities have been achieved.
“For now, we have already started in earnest with activities that are required for the construction; we have received the necessary approvals. We have received no objection from the Bureau of Public Procurement.
“We have already directed the contractor because he’s going to come in form of a turnkey project, in order to mobilise and take over the site, and to develop the necessary drawings, and the geo-technical survey reports that we have so that the two years that we have set for ourselves to deliver this project can be achieved.”
On the project value, he said: “It is going to be delivered over two budget years: 2021 and 2022, and we have not yet finalised is a turnkey project, we need the contractors to conclude the development of the drawings and other necessary documents that we need, and for them to give us an estimate that is conclusive for the building.
“And then we also move forward to the issue of equipping the building after delivering it and then place it before the BPP for consideration.”
On whether the Senate committee promised to ensure that funds appropriated were released, Umar said: “I think, you know, during our meeting or interaction with the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs, it has become very clear to the membership of that committee.
“You know, the entire delegation that came today, that what we need to do is not something just for the executive. It is a project of national proportion and significance and therefore, we need all the support that we can get from the National Assembly.”