The Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememen, said the ministry’s N100bn proposed budget for 2015 was drastically slashed by the Ministry of Finance to N11bn, representing an 89 per cent reduction.
Onolememen, who was in the Senate to defend his ministry’s estimates for the fiscal year on Monday, added that funds were not approved for the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency’s capital projects and the Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation.
He said the Finance Ministry predicated its action on the economic realities on ground.
The minister expressed concern that funds were provided for only 33 out of the 210 ongoing road projects in view of the “lean allocation” to the ministry.
He also said the provision was not sufficient to encourage contractors to sustain appreciable progress on their work sites.
Onolememen added, “No provisions have been made for other departments of the ministry such as Road and Bridge Design Department, Mechanical and Electrical Department and the Service Department”.
The minister further revealed that since 2011, the ministry had always been owed outstanding budgeted funds.
He said, “Only N45, 682, 844, 395.00bn was released for the works ministry out of 2014 capital appropriation of N98, 814, 368, 704bn . This leaves a balance of N53, 131, 524, 309.00 not released as of December 2014.
“It is important to emphasize that the performance of the ministry would have been considerably enhanced if the outstanding budgeted funds of N53.131bn had been released to the ministry.
“More importantly, if the cumulative outstanding budgeted funds of N203, 392, 075, 947.25 for the period spanning 2011 to 2014 had been released, the total indebtedness would have been brought down from N230bn to N27bn”.
Onolememen, however, said that due to the lean capital budget, a model of Public Private Partnership was being explored to ensure that more capital projects were carried out this year.
In their response to the minister’s presentation, most members of the Senate Committee on Works described the budget of the ministry as laughable.
The Chairman of the committee, Ayogu Eze, said the budget was very terrible for a sector that needs at least N500bn annually for road construction and maintenance.
“To now be given just N11bn, means the ministry would need a magician to perform wonders.
“The picture being painted by this budget profile is very grim. We are in a period of crisis which we must all manage very critically”.