The Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts has frowned at what it described as lopsided payment to local contractors.
Shehu Sani, the chairman of the committee, made the remark when the Ministry of Finance and Debt Management Office appeared before the committee for their budget defence.
Sani expressed concern that the debt repayment to a contractor from a particular region of the economy was more than all others put together.
He further noted that there were complaints that some local contractors who executed projects recently were allegedly being considered for payment, while some who were owed for about 10 years were not considered.
He requested for an explanation from the Ministry of Finance on the criteria used in carrying out such payment.
“Budget defence is an integral part of the budgetary process and works by powers conferred by the Constitution.
“It is to enable the committee to evaluate the performance of the previous year and peruse proposal of the current year,” the lawmaker said.
He asked the ministry to “submit documents on the amount paid to contractors and comprehensive evidence and list of payment from 2016 to date and other payments made for the committee to study”.
Responding, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed said in the 2018 Appropriation Act, a provision of N15 billion was made under local debt and the ministry was able to pay about N5.4 billion to date and a total of 15 Ministries Department and Agencies had benefitted from it.
The minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary(Special Duties) of the ministry, Mohammed Dikwa, said the ministry was working hard to pay off local contractors.
“We have a balance of N8.4 billion although the budget is still running. The balance is with us but we have not disbursed because we have to verify before paying.
“This repayment plan is dedicated to contractors who have N10 million and below and the total money expected to be disbursed for this category of contractors is about N34 billion.
“We have tried to work to reduce local contractor debt to boost economy and provide employment. We are determined to ensure all debt payments are verifiable and justifiable,” the minister said.
On her part, the Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, said what was approved for the DMO in 2018 was N739.25 million.