Reps, Information Minister in dispute over N100m generators

Ministry of Information and Culture and House of Representatives are in quarrel over N100 million allocated for the purchasing of two 250 KVA generating sets in the 2016 budget.

The House Committee on Information and National Orientation, led by Hon Segun Odebunmi, during an supervision visit to the Ministry of Information and Culture on the 2016 budget, questioning the ministry for using the allocation to buy lower capacity generators rather than the precise items proposed in the budget.

But Information Minister, Mohammed, told the lawmakers that the price initially set for the procurement of the generators, verified by Tenders Board, was above the budgeted cost due to fluctuating exchange rates.

According to him the development prompted the ministry to procure two sets of 100 KVA generators and 13 smaller sets for the Federal Information Centres nationwide. The generators would provide back-up electricity supply to the Federal Secretariat and the National Press Centre under construction.

The minister said that an application for a No Objection was granted by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) when a request for 100 KVA generators be purchased.

One of the lawmakers, Hon Saheed Fijabi, contended that the minister’s action contravened the Appropriation Act, adding the ministry did not have the right to move from a sub-head to another without approval.

He said the ministry should have approached the National Assembly for virement since it was 250 KVA units that were approved in the 2016 budget. But Mohammed and the ministry’s permanent secretary Mrs Ayotunde Adesugba insisted that the spending complied with the procurement act as fell within the approved threshold in the budget.

“We had to go back to BPP for permission for selective tender for the other ones because of the variation in the price for the 250 KVA units because of the high exchange rates. Aside we spent within limit buying more sets to power the federal information centres,” Mohammed said.

The minister also said that the three 18- seater staff buses that were advertised for tenders at N52million were equally affected by the high exchange rates.

The controversial generators, staff buses, federal government printing press and establishment of cultural industrial centres in six states were the four capital projects approved for the ministry in 2016.

The printing press is to cost N513million while N210 million is earmarked for the industrial centre.

But the session became rowdy when Fijabi interrupted Hon Boma Goodhead for asking Mohammed about government handling of the Boko Haram insurgency and the Chibok girls, saying that they were on a budget defence visit.

The minister appealed to lawmakers to take interest in the North-east crises, saying that while Boko Haram is defeated , the problem of suicide bombing will not abate.

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