Members of the National Assembly Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), have rubbished the Subsidy Reinvestment Empowerment Programme of the Federal Government, calling for its scrapping because it “lacks a clear sense of purpose.”
This is even as the Chairman of the SURE-P Committee, Dr. Christopher Kolade, said on Wednesday that a total of N135bn had been received as at October 2012 by the special intervention programme set up to manage savings from the partial withdrawal of fuel subsidy in January.
Kolade appeared before the joint sitting of the committees of both chambers of the National Assembly to defend the 2013 budget of his committee.
He said N15bn had accrued to the committee monthly for a period of nine months from subsidy savings.
According him, N62bn has so far been paid to contractors and beneficiaries of the scheme, while certificates worth N7.5bn for contractors on the Abuja-Lokoja and East-West roads are being processed for payment.
Kolade explained that the accruals from subsidy savings were shared among the three tiers of government and that his committee was managing the Federal Government’s share.
He said the low utilisation of funds was as a result of the late passage of the budget and because releases to the programme began in June.
But members of the committee questioned the relevance of the programme, saying it was fulfilling the desires of the Federal Government for more capital funding through the back door.
“The Federal Government wanted to remove subsidy to have enough money for capital projects, but it is doing just that through the SURE-P,” the Chairman of the committee, Senator Magnus Abe, said.
The Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Senator Mohammed Goje, said, “SURE-P is an obvious loss of confidence in the MDAs; otherwise, there was no need for the SURE-P.
“The ministries should have been given the money to executive the projects, because they have their contractors and consultants.”
The committee members were also furious that the programme had no clear mandate, as some of the projects undertaken by it were already provided for in the budgets of ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government.
The committee also knocked board for the N1bn earmarked for it in the 2012 budget.
Kolade was also asked to justify the N47bn spent on youth empowerment within the year.
The committee also doubted the N16bn expenditure for the Shagamu-Ore-Benin Expressway, saying what was on the ground did not tally with the expenditure.
Abe said it might be difficult to immediately do something about the structural defects in the operation of the SURE-P complained about by members of the committee.
He said, “We need to see details of the payment of N299m to consultants and for logistics; also, we need details of the N3.8bn spent on maternal and health care. Also, we want you to come with details of the N4bn spent on public works. We want to be clear on whether it was for the funding of FERMA or not.
“On the mass transit programme, we will like to know how much was given to the Infrastructure Bank and how the funds have been administered.”
Kolade had made efforts to present the 2013 proposals, but the committee said it would not take it until details of the 2012 expenditure were provided.
The committee had proposed N93.5bn as augmentation for roads and bridges across the country in 2013.
In the budget details submitted to the committee on Wednesday, Kolade said the amount was part of the total N273.52bn proposed for next year.
He is expected to return to the committee on Monday for the consideration of the budget.