Feb. 10, 2020

'Mamphana Molotsi

3 min read

Is this the right time to criticise the budget?

Is this the right time to criticise the budget?

Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro

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It is that time of the year when heads are up with all desiring to know how budget has been allocated this time around.

Many are voicing their expectations, something done every year but with little or no adherence given to well-tuned recommendations and concerns deliberated with view from the national legal framework.

Could it be we have inconsiderate decision-makers or there is a point being missed somewhere all the time? Let us articulate in simple terms this incomprehensible exercise.

Budget development according to Child Rights Network in the Southern Africa (CRINSA) is defined as a scarce resource allocation plan.

It deals with how resources are obtained and allocated and it involves four stages. The first is the budget formulation stage where allocations are made as per the budget ceiling. 

The second stage is the legislative stage which is about passing of two bills which are the appropriation bill and the finance bill. It is that time when there will be budget speech presentation by the Minister of Finance as well as facilitation of the acceptance or rejection of the bills by the parliament. 

The stage that follows is the implementation, which is the execution or subvention release as per the bills passed. The last stage is the audit, which is a very important stage but often given insignificant attention as it is in this stage that mismanagement and misappropriation of budget become evident.

CRINSA explains that the complexity of budget is based on the fact that all stages could be happening all at the same time. For example this period of January/ February, audit report could be in the process of being presented, at the same time, the office of the Minister of finance could be heads in developing the budget speech.

This means the 2020/21 formulation stage has already passed, whilst there could still be 2019/20 budget implementation in most ministries.

Having outlined these stages, it is evident that the common media budget reviews are in most cases untimely, hence little or no adherence often given.

This could be the reason of common year to year deliberations with no significant change being made to concerns passed by the civil society organisations and media.

Voicing out concerns during the legislative stage for the current financial year budget can in no way be given any contemplation in this regard. How best then can community participation be channelled in order for advocacy to be taken into consideration?

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From the formulation stage, Civil Society Organisations can propose dialogues with the minister and this can only be effective if Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) are conversant with when and how budget is developed, in order to be in a position to give timely and relevant contributions, recommendations and or critiques.

Within the legislative stage, CSO’s can also ensure that the bills being passed are in the best interest of the Basotho and if not mass mobilisation can be induced to influence rectification and change for the following financial year because once the parliament accepts passing of the bills, it means no change can be made to the current financial year bills.

During the implementation stage, it is the responsibility of CSO’s to make follow ups to ensure that execution is as per the bills passed and that there are no uncalled for misappropriations. However, budgets cuts are acceptable as in most cases budget formulation is done based on rough inconclusive estimates as that would have been the time the cycle of revenue collection would still be revolving. Budget audit stage should also have the representation of the COS’s to do advocacy and influence accountability for activation of developments for the coming financial year.

A budget has to demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness in a way resources are going to be induced. Mobilization should be in a sustainable manner. It should indicate transparency and there should be a follow-up that the oversight committee does its work. It is the responsibility of the CSO’s to make budget analysis and tracking for advocacy. The process should clearly state the current situation, tailor out budget objectives and ensure that budget frameworks and assumptions are realist. This should also make sure that, well stipulated expenditure distribution is linked to the constitutional provisions.  Effectiveness in budget analysis and tracking is reliant on identification of the problem, knowledge of the budget content, selection of the appropriate method of analysis and planning of the advocacy process such as mass mobilisation.

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