The harshest criticism of the national budgeting procedures has thus far come from the most unlikely corner.
The ruling Botswana Democratic Party Member of Parliament for Tati East, Guma Moyo, said the decision by government to give ministries the power to decide on project expenditure of up to P10 million is a reform measure “too little too late.”
A harsh critic of the modus operandi of the Ministry of Finance, Guma said it was high time the coordinating ministry confined itself to creation of overall macroeconomic planning and policy framework, thereby passing all the implementation to other ministries.
He said the Ministry of Finance should concern itself with monitoring performance of agreed targets and milestones by other ministries.
Worse, he said, this year’s budget makes no attempt towards the achievement of goals spelt out in Vision 2016.
In a separate interview, Moyo said it is high time government increased its development budget planning cycle to at least two years, adding that the present set up creates unnecessary excitement with projects that are not deliverable.
“In fact, as of now, the development budget creates uncertainty,” he quipped.
He said the current planning cycle of one year is too short, adding that what is important to people is not talking about the figure allocated but the actual commencement of the projects on the ground.
He said the 6 percent salary increase for the public service is far from enough, adding that in no way can that be called “prudent management” because it fails to acknowledge the existing differences between the highest paid income brackets and the lowest inside government.
“For some people, this 6 percent is going to result in a salary increase of P25. Looking at the economic situation, is that worth it? If this is education then I have a problem with what we are trying to achieve.”
He called for a total overhaul.
“In this regard the whole planning and budgeting process needs a complete overhaul not only to give Ministries and Ministers complete control over the budgetary allocations approved by parliament but also to require the Ministers to account to parliament for budgetary allocations to their ministries in terms of real achievement and outcomes and improvement to the lives of Batswana as opposed to the current accounting approach based on the level of under expenditure of the approved budget.”
Commenting on performance of public enterprises, Moyo said the 7 percent return on equity in such enterprises cannot be praised because the net inflation in the past year averaged 12 percent.
“Which effectively means government earned a negative return on its equity. Is there a target return on Government equity in these enterprises? If not, why not?” asked Moyo.
The Member of Parliament said more will be required of the public service to create the necessary conditions for the economy to be internationally competitive.
“Unfortunately, the speech is largely silent on this issue and only refers to a recommendation in the report of the Business and Economic Advisory Council of ‘further improving the investment climate and adopting more business friendly processes and procedures in the public sector.’
He said the tendency by the Ministry of Finance to rely on supplementary budgets even for things that are planned for is uncalled for.
“As we speak the 6 percent salary increase is not part of the appropriation bill. The Ministry will bring it as a supplementary. That is uncalled for because supplementary budgets should only be for unforeseen circumstances,” said Moyo.