The House of Representatives Committee on National Planning and Economic Development has lambasted the management of the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER) for failing to coherently speak on budget documents submitted to the committee.
The lawmakers told the Director-General of the agency, Folarin Smith and his team on Thursday in Abuja that they need to go back and conduct a research on themselves.
A motion to place the agency on oath had earlier been moved by Rep. Wole Oke, but failed to get a secondment, thereby forcing the committee chairman, Rep. Abdulganiyu Olododo, from Kwara to rule Oke out of order.
Trouble began for the DG and his team when he told lawmakers that another total of 19 young Nigerians were recruited in 2019 but are yet to be paid their salary more than one year after.
“19 newly recruited NIRSER staff are yet to be paid”, Smith had told the committee.
However, a total sum of N603.333,128 was said to have been appropriated for personnel cost, released and expended in 2020, yet the 19 new staff worked without pay.
Smith said he had “been to the DG budget who had signed on it and yet nothing happened. I still want back and was told the DG budget has to still countersign in 2020 since this is a new accounting year. But as we speak, nothing has happened.”
Asked why his personnel cost was 100% utilised, he said the releases were used promptly as they were cash-backed.
The director finance who was asked to explain, and who refused to give his name to journalists upon request said they were employed in 2019 and captured in the 2020 budget proposal.
But when asked about the budget performance in percentage terms and why it did not include payment of salaries for class of 2019 staff, he quickly said the new staff were not captured in the 2020 budget.
He added that “they are only being captured in the 2021 budget which explains the difference between the two documents before the committee”.
His explanation was abruptly cut short by the DG who felt he was getting into more trouble by it than vindication, but was cautioned by members to let him finish after which they could go and sort themselves out.
At this point, the committee Chairman said he would have asked the DG to come back saying that the way he acted shows that he was not fully briefed on the happenings in his agency.
According to the the chairman, “there is no harmonious working relationship among your agency’s management Staff if you the DG would come for budget defence and begin to receive briefings from your Staff before answering questions”.
“If you don’t put your act together, we will reject this budget. We cannot take this attitude from your agency, because this is the kind of behavior that’s causing youth restiveness and protest all over the place,” chairman Olododo cautioned.
The chairman said further, “the agency needs to go back and do research on the staff”, adding that “there’s no synergy between the DG and his staff”.
“It’s disheartening and sad to see that a research institute of NIRSER standing cannot sit down and present a seamless budget defence before the parliament because the management staff are not on the same page.