Tuesday, July 5, 2022

BOCONGO says Budget Act can close gaps in national budget system

The seven-year budget analysis survey conducted by the Botswana Council of Non Governmental organizations (BOCONGO) with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) has proposed the need for a Budget Act.

An identified gap in the national budget system prompted BOCONGO to conduct annual public consultations on the Budget Speech. The seven year budget analysis was compiled by Professor Keitseope Nthomang and Dr Emmanuel Botlhale.

“Notwithstanding the existence of relevant legislation that guides the budget process, such as the Finance and Audit Act and the Constitution section 119, there is a need to promulgate a specific Budget Act,” stated the report.

BOCONGO has, since 2006, conducted budget analysis consultations for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Botswana.

Presenting the report, Dr Emmanuel Botlhale revealed that such a budget law will institutionalise the budget pitso and pave the way for the people’s budget.

Over the seven years, fifteen pertinent issues of concern have been recurring. These include issue of budgetary participation, budgetary transparency, budgetary mainstreaming, and topicality of agriculture and, in addition, education and Health, Social Safety Nets, Project Implementation, Budgeting for Results, People’s Budget, Cost of living and the budget being for Batswana.

A key argument that arose from the consultations is lack of participation in the budgeting process. Botswana performance continues to drop over the years. In 2006 Botswana, under the Open budget Index, scored 65, declining with four points to 61 in 2008. In 2010, there was a sharp decline of 10 points was experienced to 51 in 2010.

The study has recommended that a People’s Budget be introduced, which is a simplified version of the budget.

“It should be written in a non-technical language that can be read and understood by ordinary people, removing all the technical jargon that has come to characterize our Budget Speeches,” stated the report.

The report has made propositions on interventions that keep track the expenditures made. The expenditure track refers to interventions that look into whether the money gets to where it is supposed to go.

“This is because leakages are common and are often a result of corruption,” said Botlhale. In addition, Government has been urged to extend the coverage of the district budget beyond Gaborone.

Further, the report has called upon the MPs to consult their constituents on the budget proposals they are debating in Parliament in order to gather their budget preferences. In line with best budget practices, the executive should provide the legislature with the Executive’s Budget Proposal at least six weeks before the start of the budget year.

Suggestions to government have been made to strengthen oversight institutions that can hold government to account for abuse of office leading to cases of financial misdemeanor, particularly, relating to unauthorized appropriations.

In addition the report has recommended that it is important that parliament freely exercise the power of the purse. “It is an incontrovertible fact that parliament in Botswana is weak vis-├á-vis the executive as to effectively exercise the power of the purse,” stated the report.

The intention of conducting the surveys is to create space for communities to assess the responsiveness of the budget to the majority of the people of Botswana and, in particular, the needs of the marginalised and vulnerable members of the community such as women and children, youth, the elderly, people living with disabilities and remote area dwellers.

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