The House of Representatives Committee on Housing yesterday expressed doubts over the preparedness of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to implement the N35billion housing component of the Ministry’s budget.

Chairman of the Committee, Mustapha Bala (APC, Kano) during an interactive session with the Ministry on the status of the budget implementation, doubted the competence of the Ministry to implement the National Housing project, six months into the fiscal year.

He became agitated when the  Minister, Babatunde Fashola in his presentation, said the Ministry was still in the process of sorting out the designs for the project.

He said: “What has the Ministry been doing since November last year when the budget was presented  till now that appropriate designs are not ready? You have not even advertised it.

“Are you not competent, or what, because you ought to have completed the design by February so that once the budget was passed, you commence implementation. Design should not take more than 15 days because your experts in the Ministry have been doing it for years.

“By the time you start this project, you will have just about three months left in the year, even if the budget is extended to March 2017, that will be just six months.”

The Committee also wondered why the Ministry could not dispense with redundant and non-performing PPPs, wondering if there was a framework and criteria for qualification.

In his response, Fashola said the blame should not be heaped on the Ministry.

He said: “That is a strange question because a bulk sum was proposed in the budget for the National Housing project  and we asked states in need  to access it willingly but the House insisted that it must go round.

“The result is what we are seeing  now, many did not respond  because housing needs of each state differs, taking into cognisance the role migratory factor plays here.”

He also said the Ministry should be commended rather than criticised for the work it has done on the project. “The Ministry should be commended and  not condemned because the budget is inadequate.

“As a result of that, we are focusing on sustainable housing plan that works rather than rushing the budget, affordability and slum prevention is key to this design.

“Other countries that had housing programme decades ago did not even have 100 per cent home owners but they have a near uniformity of designs. By the time we go full circle, we won’t be talking of N35billion but hundreds of billions

“Why it took so long for the  design to be ready, infrastructures-roads, sewage disposal, water and others   have to be planned into the housing and that’s what the Ministry is doing.

“To say all these should be done in three months is difficult because we need a plan that will accomodate cultures and other peculariaries of each state. Our designs are based on feedback.

“I appeal to the House that we look at the larger picture, even if you are not impressed with my staff, I  have a different opinion.”

Fashola, who said he inherited a 2012 Housing Plan that had no implementation blue print entered into by previous administrations could not solve the country’s housing challenges.

• The Nation