Saturday, September 25, 2021

DIS budget raises eyebrows

A minority opinion of the Parliamentary Budget Estimates Committee has revealed how the Directorate of Intelligence and Security services was given million of Pula during the 2014 December Supplementary budget requests although it did not meet requirements for supplementary funding. The minority group within the Budget Estimates Committee made up of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) members of parliament also put together a needs assessment index for budget funding which for the first time in the history of the country’s budgeting system detailed a science to the budgeting process as opposed to the current arbitrary system.

The index results presented as “a minority opinion within the Budget estimates Committee” revealed that the DISS did not qualify for the funding. In a footnote to the index results, the minority group recommended that the request by DISS should be sent back to be assessed under the regular budgeting process as, “it does not meet any of the requirements for supplementary funding.” The minority report was however suppressed by Parliament and its opinion rejected by the majority BDP members of Parliament who approved all the funding the DISS requested although it had emerged that the request did not meet requirements.

A proposal by UDC Vice President Ndaba Gaolatlhe that the minority opinion be made part of the Parliament Hansard was rejected by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe The DISS supplementary budget request was also tied up with that of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) who met the requirements for supplementary funding although their funding needs were not linked. “For the ministry of Defence, Justice and Security and Ministry of state President we separated BDF and DIS from their respective ministries in the scoring as we thought the funding is not necessarily linked or should be linked to their ministries per se”, states the minority opinion.

The DISS request scored lowest of the need assessment index and was the only one that was rejected outright by the minority committee. The minority committee however recommended that some request be reduced. In their conclusion, the minority committee stated that the Parliament Budget estimates Committee “by granting 100% of the supplementary requests by Ministries, the Budget Estimates Committee “has erred, and this will create not only a precedent but a culture that will compromise Botswana Government’s system of sustainable budgeting. UDC Vice President, Ndaba Gaolatlhe who is also among the minority group of the Budget Estimates Committee stopped short of saying the committee was not fit to assess requests by ministries. Speaking in parliament, Gaolatlhe said, “what we should have done as a committee is that we should have built a system. We should have conceived a method and with this method and with this system we should have been able to evaluate each request on the basis of a system. We should have been able to score each ministry and each department based on certain criteria.

Indeed some members in this committee took some time and they decided to conceive a method, a system. As I say Mr Speaker, I will always remind you this, I did not say certain members of a certain political party; I did not say that, I said some members of this committee decided to draft a system. This system looks at five criteria. Remember we are doing things at high level. We are doing things within a week, things which ordinarily should take three or four months to do. Anywhere in the world where you have a fund of P2 billion and you have to allocate it, you cannot do it in a week. That is unheard of. That is a travesty.

Given the circumstances we can always improvise and in that effort to improvise we devised a system. We looked at five criteria. The first criteria is the question as to whether these monies truly reflect the idea that there are unforeseen, they deserve to be considered candidates for supplementary funding. We looked at the second criteria of sustainability whether indeed these projects, these requests are going to be funneled towards initiatives and projects that are sustainable and that feed into a larger sustainable system. We looked at the question as to whether from a cost benefit analysis in general terms, are we doing justice. We looked at the criteria as to whether those requesting this funding actually have the capacity to implement and manage some of the risks associated with allocating these funds. This was done.
Indeed this grouping scored these departments, it gave them scores. I am not here to tell you what those scores are but the principle is that a system was developed, ministries were scored, and some of the ministries such as His Honour the Vice President’s Ministry of Education, which we all are upset with, but the system scored them and necessitate them that we allocate almost everything that they asked for based on the system. So, this is not a partisan initiative.

Some of the ministries or some of the departments were scored and according to this method they were deserving of no more than 20 per cent of what they were asking for. I know Honourable T. Khama, he loves his wildlife and he loves his rhinos. We were not happy with him trying to build Rome in one day. But this system recognized that at least there is a strategy, there is a vision that he is trying to work towards. It allocated him a small percentage. I am sorry, a little less than 50 per cent. It gave you something.”

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