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engenders participatory budgeting
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
January 31, 2012
The enactment of the
Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and introduction of the Budget
Strategy Paper has been warmly received by all interested in a strong
and accountable public finance management system that engenders
The PFMA has
provisions that empower Parliament
to conduct hearings in order to solicit public input during the
formulation of the Budget. There are also provisions for quarterly
reporting by ministries to parliamentary committees on Budget performance.
This ensures that Parliament
has teeth to monitor the deployment and use of public funds. The
Budget Strategy Paper is an innovation that allows Parliament and
the public to participate in the setting of national priorities
for the Budget.
While these noble budget
reforms are most welcome, it is their enforcement which is glaringly
lacking. The PFMA requires supporting regulations in order to be
The Ministry of Finance
is currently drafting regulations and has circulated drafts for
comment. Parliament, through the Budget and Finance Committee, should
therefore seize this opportunity and influence the content of these
regulations in order to advance its role in the entire Budget process
from formulation, implementation and audit of finances.
The draft regulations
prepared by the Ministry of Finance and circulated to selected stakeholders
for comment speak to the submission of the Budget Strategy Paper
to Parliament “for information purposes only”.
This should certainly
not be allowed to pass. This is because the Budget Strategy Paper
marks the beginning of the budget process, a procedure over which
Parliament has a constitutional mandate of oversight.
should be allowed time to engage in debate and submit its recommendations
and/or proposals which it feels can enhance the setting of budget
and macroeconomic priorities for the country in the forthcoming
The recommendations of
Parliament should be seriously considered by the Executive. The
time frame for submitting the Budget Strategy Paper to Parliament
should be clearly outlined in the regulations. Best practice is
at least two months before presentation of the Budget to Parliament.
The reason why the Executive
should present the Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update, the Half-Year
Budget Situation Analysis Report and the Annual Economic and Fiscal
Update Reports to Parliament, is to facilitate the latter to carry
out its executive oversight function.
However, this exercise
will be futile and a mere waste of resources if Parliament is not
given enough time to scrutinise and analyse these Budget implementation
reports with input from civic groups and the general public.
Parliament should be
afforded time to assess and monitor the effectiveness and efficiency
of government’s Budget implementation process and level of
transparency and accountability in the utilisation of public resources.
These reports are as
good as the national budget itself. Parliament should therefore
be seen to vigorously interrogate them and undertake meaningful
debate on them in plenary sessions.
The public finance management
framework which does not recognise the separation of powers and
responsibilities of the three arms of government does not engender
While it is the prerogative
of the executive to formulate the annual Budget, it is within the
powers of the legislature to analyse, debate and pass this Budget.
should not be hindered from performing its constitutional mandate
of oversight by time constraints.
The regulations should
therefore include provisions that allow the Budget and Finance Portfolio
Committee, in consultation with other committees, to consider, analyse,
review and discuss the Annual Budget Statement and table an analytical
report in the House of Assembly within a certain reasonable period
(such as 30 days) from the day the Annual Budget Statement was first
presented to the House. The regulations should outlaw fast-tracking
of the Budget.
The report by the Parliamentary
Budget Committee may recommend with reasons, amendments to the appropriations/votes
and programmes, which may be approved or rejected by the House of
Assembly through a resolution passed by a majority of its membership.
The report and its resolutions
shall within seven days after adoption by Parliament be submitted
to the Finance minister for consideration in preparing the final
appropriation and finance Bills.
One of the primary responsibilities
of the government is to ensure that the benefits of national resources
are equitably shared among the wider population, including the poorer
and most vulnerable sections of society.
One of the mechanisms
of measuring how effective the government is performing this responsibility
is by issuing reports on operations of government departments and
Upholding of public transparency
and accountability is one of the prerequisites of democratic governance.
The introduction of various reporting requirements is a welcome
development as it facilitates transparency and gives account of
how the government carries out its assigned responsibilities.
The greatest shortcomings
of the current quarterly and monthly reports produced by some of
the government ministries are that they lack useful information
on the operations and activities of the ministries.
The reports do not outline
the outputs, outcomes and impact of the expenditures, thereby making
it very difficult for portfolio committees to effectively monitor
the use of public funds.
It is disappointing to
see the draft regulations watering down the importance of monthly
and quarterly submission of reports to Parliament.
It is important to highlight
that the monthly and quarterly vote reports are more operational
in the sense that they are more current and provide an opportunity
for correction before mistakes or mismanagement of resources is
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