- Category: Politics
- Published on Monday, 14 June 2010 10:26
- Written by Tribune
- Hits: 1079
A familiar refrain was heard in the National Assembly last week just before many of the lawmakers departed for the World Cup in South Africa.
Many senators, just like their House of Representatives counterparts, are demanding a 100 per cent rise in their quarterly allocations, which currently stand at N45 million and N27 million for the Reps.
Sources in the National Assembly informed the Nigerian Tribune that while the agitation initially contributed to the tension in the House of Representatives, members have since found a new rallying point against Speaker Dimeji Bankole in his alleged financial misdeed and alleged culpability in the N2.3 billion car scam of 2008.
But in the Senate, the bid was said to have been kickstarted by a senator who originated text messages stating that the Senate could afford to increase the quarterly take home of its members to N90 million for those who are not principal officers and about N150 million for the principal officers.
It was gathered that the leadership of the Senate had prepared a budget that could take care of what was described as the “exigencies of an election year” and that one of the senators who got hint of the details decided to inform his colleagues of the need to demand for a general review.
The quarterly allocations are meant to take care of the administration of a senator’s office in the National Assembly and the constituency offices, as well as purchase of local and international journals and periodicals. There are also funds for medical expenses, local tours as well as staff welfare.
But it emerged that many of the lawmakers had converted the funds for personal uses, while some of them had never approved money for staff expenses as contained in the budget breakdown.
The funds have risen from about N16 million in 2003 to the current N45 million per quarter.
It was gathered that while the division among members of the House of Representatives appeared to have let the cat out of the bag, leading to accusations that Bankole’s men leaked the demand to the public, those behind the bid in the Senate were pursuing it discreetly.
It was gathered that the Appropriation Committee, headed by Senator Iyiola Omisore, could not tamper with the Senate budget as prepared by the body of principal officers, because it was agreed that the leadership knew the details of administrative challenges of the chamber and each lawmaker.
Sources said the senators pushing for a review of the quarterly budget were already scrutinising the budget and had uncovered what was described as possible areas where excess allocations were domiciled.
For instance, the 2010 Senate budget contains an allocation of N55 million for maintenance of plants and generators, whereas, the same overhead was allocated N57.2 million under the allocation to National Assembly office.
Some legislators contended that since the maintenance of plants fell within the purview of National Assembly management, any allocation to the Senate on that subhead could be superfluous.
Also, besides the allocation of N100 million for books in the National Assembly library in the allocations to National Assembly office, the Senate also allocated N300 million for the same purpose. The House of Representatives budgeted N355.1 million for that purpose.
Other areas the lawmakers were looking at where funds for the N90 million per quarter project could be found included the miscellaneous expenses, totalled N18.559 billion.
A breakdown of the expenses include N12 billion budgeted for Senate programmed activities; N2.2 billion budgeted for contingency; N1 billion for committee public hearing; another N900 million for public hearing and N1 billion budgeted for Senate chamber.
For the House of Representatives, the members were looking at raising their current N27 million per quarter allocation to N42 million from sources such as the contingency and miscellaneous expenses.
The House budgeted N15.0 billion for miscellaneous expenses, including N3.7 billion for House programmed activities; N960 million for capacity building; N4.2 billion for public hearing and committee activities; N1.9 billion for House administration; N1.8 billion for House chamber and N2.1 billion for contingency.
The House also budgeted N6.265 billion for capital votes in the 2010 budget.
Official figures from the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) put the annual basic salary of senators at N2.4 million.
The lawmakers are entitled to other allowances, including accommodation, 200 per cent of basic annual salary; vehicle maintenance, 75 per cent; entertainment, 30 per cent and utility allowance, 30 per cent of basic.
They are also entitled to other allowances, including 25 per cent of basic salary as personal assistant allowance; the same for wardrobe and domestic staff, while 75 per cent of annual basic salary goes for recess allowance.
Ten per cent of basic salary is set aside for newspapers purchase, while constituency allowance stands at 250 per cent.
Allowances payable at the beginning of the tenure, which are only paid once in a tenure, included 300 per cent (of basic salary) furniture allowance; severance gratuity of 300 per cent at the end of the tenure and a car loan of 400 per cent of basic salary, which is repayable in six years.