Wednesday, March 17, 2004 Privatization Proceeds unaccounted for - CBN, others tell Senate By Isa Sanusi Efforts by the Senate to trace proceeds from privatisation and use them as a possible financing item in this year's budget failed as all inquiries established that there were no funds in the privatisation account. This was revealed yesterday by the chairman Senate committee on appropriation and finance, Senator John Azuta-Mbata who also told the Senate that inquiries at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Finance confirmed that there was no money or account in the name of privatisation proceeds anywhere. "Efforts to trace the privatisation proceeds and all enquiries to that effect have not been successful. Both the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Finance told us that they don't know the whereabouts of any money accruing from privatisation of federal government owned companies," he said. Senator John Azuta-Mbata added that the discovery was an anomaly that the executive must explain, pointing out that Nigerians would be surprised that funds generated from privatisation from 1999 to 2003 could not be traced while adding that this was the period within which so many business concerns of the federal government were privatised. In their contributions on the flour of the Senate, the lawmakers who were apparently shocked by the disco-very insisted that the Senate should compel the executive to explain the whereabouts of the privatisation proceeds. Senator Mbata who described the discovery as unfortunate added that the federal ministry of finance informed his committee that it was in possession of N85 billion from the looted funds and more that was expected and that N105 billion from the looted funds would be used to finance the budget deficit that amounts to N161 billion. The chairman also told he Senate that henceforth the executive must submit budget proposals by August noting that late submission by the executive had always been responsible for all the difficulties the National Assembly faced in processing the Appropriation Bill, adding that several omissions, inadequate background information, initial lack of cooperation by several agencies of government and general lack of disclosure mitigated against speedy processing of the Bill. He also suggested to the Senate legislative financial reforms which include limiting or lowering budget deficit through ensuring appropriate financing mechanism and the provision of adequate stabilisation funds. The Senate directed the Accountant General of the Federation to create an Excess Revenue Account at the Central Bank for all monies accruing to the federation account in the excess of the $25 dollars per barrel oil price benchmark and also directed that all accounting officers of ministries, parastatals and departments of government who control heads of expenditure shall present quarterly reports detailing the progress of implementation of the budget. Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, said the National Assembly had worked hard to make the budget implementable and that no excuse would be acceptable from the president for non-implementation, adding that the Senate would not hesitate in querying the president to explain any violation of the budget.