OrderPaperToday – The Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER) was unable to defend its 2021 budget proposals before the House of Representatives Committee on National Planning and Economic Development.
The lawmakers turned down the agency’s presentation and asked its Director General (DG), Dr. Folarin Gbadebo Smith, and his team to go back and rework its submission as the officials failed to coherently speak to budget documents they prepared and submitted to the committee.
A motion to place the agency on oath had earlier been moved by Wole Oke (Osun, PDP), chairman, committee on Public Accounts, but failed to get a secondment, thereby forcing the committee chairman, Mr. Abdulganiyu Olododo to rule Oke out of order.
The NISER DG and his team had earlier told lawmakers that 19 young Nigerians were recruited in 2019 but are yet to be paid their salaries more than one year after.
However, a total sum of N603,333,128 was said to have been appropriated for personnel cost, released and expended in 2020, yet the 19 new staff worked without pay.
Dr. Smith said he had “been to the DG budget who had signed on it and yet nothing happened. I still want back and was told the DG budget has to still countersign in 2020 since this is a new accounting year. But as we speak, nothing has happened.”
Asked why his personnel cost was 100% utilised, he said the releases were used promptly as they were cash-backed.
The director of finance of NISER, who was asked to explain and refused to give his name to journalists upon request, said the staff were employed in 2019 and captured in the 2020 budget proposal.
But when asked about the budget performance in percentage terms and why it did not include payment of salaries for class of 2019 staff, he quickly said the new staff were not captured in the 2020 budget.
He added that “they are only being captured in the 2021 budget which explains the difference between the two documents before the committee”.
His explanation was abruptly cut short by the DG who felt he was getting into more trouble but was cautioned by committee members to let him finish after which they could go and sort themselves out.
At this point, the committee chairman observed that “there is no harmonious working relationship among your agency’s management Staff if you the DG would come for budget defence and begin to receive briefings from your staff before answering questions.
“If you don’t put your act together, we will reject this budget. We cannot take this attitude from your agency, because this is the kind of behavior that’s causing youth restiveness and protest all over the place,” he cautioned.
The chairman said further, “the agency needs to go back and do research on the staff”, adding that “there’s no synergy between the DG and his staff.
“It’s disheartening and sad to see that a research institute of NIRSER standing cannot sit down and present a seamless budget defence before the parliament because the management staff are not on the same page.
“I want to state here that a committee will be set up to monitor the implementation of the budget and the impact the activities of the Institute have on the Nigerian economy.
“We can’t accept anything less, because this 9th Assembly is made of serious minded people and our people are suffering and will continue to suffer agencies like yours whose mandate is to provide guidance to government on socio-economic growth of our country”, the chairman said.