Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Financial mismanagement in govt. irks Mandlebe

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Wilfred Mandlebe has raised concerns about poor financial management across government entities.

Appearing before Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Mandlebe observed that it happens across different ministries. He said Accounting Officers for different ministries may genuinely not know their role when it comes to financial management, hence need to strengthen their capacity.

“The ministry is willing and prepared to help other ministries in building capacity in economic analysis and financial management skills,” said Mandlebe.

He further stated that the ministry also intends to instill a governance culture, whereby accounting officers would take responsibility of managing their ministry’s finances and audit queries efficiently and effectively.

Mandlebe observed that there has been slow implementation of audit recommendations such that from a total of 2886 recommendations arising from audits conducted over the past three years (2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20), 1396 recommendations were implemented, representing an average 45 percent performance level. He stated that what it means is that governance and control structures remain weak to mitigate risks associated with Ministries’ operations.

He stated that there is need to effectively analyse ministries requests to avoid wastage and ensure cost effectiveness, adding that sometimes projects are implemented at very high costs or have inflated budgets.

“The Cabinet has established a Sub-Committee on the performance of State-Owned Entities (SOEs) to assess the SOEs in areas of corporate governance, operations and oversight with a view to improving their contribution to the economy through either rationalization, merging or terminating these entities.  Terms of Reference have been developed for the Sub-Committee which are aligned to the Transformation Agenda, National Development Plan 11, and the Vision 2030 objectives, among others,” said Mandlebe.

He spoke of the government’s commitment through the 2020/21 Budget Speech, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has introduced a Zero-Based Budgeting system (ZBB) when developing the Development, Recurrent and Revenue budgets.

This will start in the 2021/2022 budget cycle.  He said the ZBB is an integral part of the ongoing National Budget reforms that fall under the aegis of the comprehensive and integrated Botswana’s Public Finance Management (PFM) reforms, which started in 2012.

He added that the ZBB is expected to assist government to contribute to the efficient allocation and utilisation of resources, and also entrenching cost containment in the PFM ecosystem of government. He spoke of improve fiscal discipline, in light of the significant changes in the fiscal environment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and other fiscal challenges.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.