Friday, December 3, 2021

World Bank scolds Botswana over NDPs

Although Botswana’s traditional planning and budgeting systems have served the country well since independence, they are no longer in tune with modern times, so much that there is real risk of not being able to deliver on the projected┬á targets,┬á especially in view of the need to cope with demands presented by the current global┬á financial crisis and dwindling revenues.

Moreover, there is more money going out of state coffers than is practicable to make up for the costs resulting from remunerating a big public service that takes the bulk of the country’s financial resources.

It was observed by the World Bank Group delegation that on formulating the NDPs, no provision was ever made for existing projects, with the result that every NDP since independence has been leaving in its trail a legacy of either dilapidated or incomplete projects.

Michael Stevens, (Financial Management, and AFTFM) of the World Bank Group, said, “A look at the Sectoral Chapters in the NDPs contain no information relating to the costs, such that consequently it was not possible to gather any idea at all as to whether the proposed plans would be affordable.”
Worse still, the plans do not have any graphic description and tracking by way of summary tables, gaps (hubs) and consequently unrealistic recurrent costs.

Stevens presented the Botswana Public Expenditure Review Report to officials of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and other key stakeholders, who included representative of the Business Advisory Council (BAC) and Dr. Collie Monkge, Coordinator of the National Vision 2016 Council  at the Gaborone Sun Hotel this week.

Under the theme, “Public Expenditure Planning for Sustainability and Growth”, he pointed out that an examination of the dual budgeting system,┬á or what is┬á the same thing as national development plans┬á as used here, showed there has always been underestimation or wrong projections by the Ministries.

Part of the reason was that while the fiscal, developmental aspect of the budget was done from the MFDP, the bulk of matters dealing with performance, the human capital component was the business of an external domain in the form of the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM).

“By following a hybrid budget system, Botswana risks falling between two stools, thus may fail to achieve the desired outcomes, especially as she faces her mid-term fiscal challenges and new growth strategy,” said Stevens.

The World Bank official pointed out that rather than try to combine the NDP system with the Integrated Results Based Management System (IRBMS), it would be better for Botswana to restore the former, even though it would still not be the best and, perhaps, “unacceptable to many stakeholders”.

In addition to the finding that recurrent costs are unrestricted, there tends to be inclination towards new projects, with the system being fiscally expansionary, particularly if revenues are buoyant.

“Nobody examines performance of existing service,” concluded Stevens.

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