The Senate at its sitting on Wednesday, February 26th, 2015 consolidated and passed the Bill for an Act to Establish an Independent National Assembly Budget and Research Office, (NABRO). The Bill provides for the creation of an independent unbiased and non-partisan office to carry out an analysis of national budget estimates.
The Senate bill which had earlier been presented for first reading on the 20th of July 2011 by the Senate majority leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (PDP: Cross River) seeks among others to provide an independent, unbiased and non-partisan analysis of budget estimates and provide an independent and continuous review of the Federal government budget including the monitoring of existing and proposed programmes. The proposed budget office will also publish and disseminate information it generates and present periodic forecasts of economic trends and alternative fiscal policies to the National Assembly.
Modelled after the Congressional Budget Office in the United States of America, the office has been operating without an enabling law. It is also believed by many that the establishment of NABRO will assist to eliminate information monopoly, simplify budget complexities, provide transparency and accountability, improve the credibility of the budget and provide a rapid response to issues just like its American counterpart.
During the debate of the bill, many Senators noted that the creation of NABRO was of paramount importance as it was necessary to have an independent, non-partisan, credible and up-to-date information to perform its function of oversight and monitor the level of implementation of the budget when assessing the information it received from the Ministry of Finance and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs)
Senator Ndoma–Egba (PDP: Cross Rivers) for instance noted that the creation of NABRO would update the National Assembly on the extra budgetary expenses incurred and appropriated but not funded by the Government within a fiscal year. Senator Ayogu Eze (PDP: Enugu) and Senator Smart Adeyemi (PDP: Kogi) were also of the view that it would make the country’s budgetary system more democratic as legislators would be able to make independent assessments on the budget outside those provided by the Executive.
It is noteworthy that the preliminary analysis of the 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper, (FSP) by NABRO was among the documents used by the Senate Joint Committee on Finance, National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in arriving at a realistic MTEF.
It would be recalled that both Houses of the National Assembly passed the Bill for the establishment of NABRO in the 6th Assembly, but that it did not receive presidential assent before the expiration of the tenure of that Assembly. In the current 7th Assembly, the House of Representatives had also passed the Bill since 2014, but have been awaiting the concurrence of the Senate. Presently, expectations are high that the Bill will win legislative approval in the Senate and be passed into law by both chambers of the National Assembly.
The Bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriation who are expected to report back to the Senate plenary in two weeks.