Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Government diverts money meant for underprivileged

Investigations by the World Bank have turned up information suggesting that the Botswana government may have diverted money that was budgeted for underprivileged citizens.

This comes hardly a month after the Parliament Public Account Committee completed their report, revealing how funds, which were budgeted for disaster management, were diverted to the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services.

A World Bank document, Report Number 53959-BW, titled Botswana Public Expenditure Review, dated May 2010, points to what it describes as mixed evidence on whether the various Social Safety Nets (SSN) programs established by Government ever reached their intended beneficiaries. As a result, a delegation of experts from the World Bank found it difficult to estimate SSN spending in Botswana.

“…Expenditures overall are not classified on a programmatic basis and SSN and other poverty-reducing expenditures are neither clearly defined nor tracked in any manner, and information is aggregated in a confusing way,” reads part of the World Bank Report.

For instance, the functional classification of expenditures includes a “Food and Social Welfare Programs” category, but without further disaggregation by program or program type.

The Report queried that there was no one place where SSN expenditures are consolidated, and that it was not easy to reconstruct the amount spent on SSN from the budget books as it was difficult to ascertain where certain program expenditure occurs.

The World Bank Team led by Zeinab Partow, Senior Country Economist, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, stated that, “upon closer inspection of the “Food and Social Welfare Programs” category it becomes clear that expenditures which would not normally be considered part of the SSN umbrella are included”.

Some of the expenditures, which they say do not represent an exhaustive list of the items, included “Trade Fairs, Agricultural shows and Exhibitions”, “Construction of Border fences” and “Food Research and Testing Centre” formed part of the stuff “intended for the relief of the underprivileged”.

The Inspectors were also dumbstruck by the manner in which Programs sometimes shifted from one ministry to another, and were allocated to recurrent or to development budget in no easily understandable manner.

Information obtained by the World Bank Inspectors from the Ministry of Local Government (MLG) did not correspond to figures in the Budget estimates.

The Inspectors further pointed out that in spite of the stated foible in the book keeping, an attempt was made at a best estimate of SSN spending by the public sector, covering the nine major programs targeting those who deserve social safety support.

Mention was made of the fact that the information used for estimates was based on the annual Estimates of Expenditure from the Consolidated and Development Funds, as well as the Annual Statement of Accounts.

Against that background, “Contrary to some assessments, SSN spending in Botswana is quite high, and has been increasing as a proportion on total government spending and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in recent years,” the Inspectors reported.

The report was presented before Government officials and other stakeholders at the Gaborone Sun on Tuesday 24 August 2010.

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