Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando has accused government of sleeping on the job as far as proper planning and prudent management of national resources is concerned.
Saleshando who is also Member of Parliament for Maun West was fuming on Tuesday following Government’s request for additional P2.49 billion funding through the Supplementary budget window.
According to Saleshando, planners at the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development should have seen the budgetary constraints coming, and put in place better spending controls to curb wasteful expenditure especially in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic where government reserves are depleted.
JUSTIFICTION FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDING
Putting the request before parliament on Tuesday Minister of Finance & Economic Development Ms Peggy Serame said debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt by both local and global economies at large.
Minister Serame explained that the disease has shown little signs of abating, despite efforts by Government to combat its spread and minimize the mortality rate, especially among the vulnerable groups of the population.
“The resultant decline in economic activity has negatively impacted government revenues which, in turn, compel Government to reprioritize its spending plans by redirecting financial resources to critical and urgent areas of need.” She said.
Minister Serame told parliament that supplementary budget requests were received from eight Ministries namely: Finance and Economic Development (MFED); Basic Education (MOBE); Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security (MMGE); Health and Wellness (MoHW); Defence, Justice and Security (MDJS); Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology (MOTE); International Affairs and Cooperation (MIAC); as well as Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services (MLWS).
“I wish to underscore that with the current constrained resource envelope, we have only managed to accommodate four requests from MFED, MOTE, MoHW and MDJS. The remaining Ministries were advised to re-allocate fund within their current provisions” she revealed.
The approved Ministerial Recurrent Budget for the financial year 2021/2022 is P50.66 billion. Of the Ministerial Recurrent Budget, the Ministry of Health and Wellness was allocated a total of P7.90 billion or 15.6 percent to fund health services including P426 million for COVID – 19 relief.
The overall Ministerial Expenditure as at 31st July 2021 was two billion, nine hundred and seventy million and thirty-seven thousand, eight hundred and seventeen Pula (P2 970 037 817) or 38 percent.
Parliament was further told that with regard to the current financial year, the allocation for the COVID-19 (Corona Virus) Relief was P426 million.
As at 31st July 2021, the COVID -19 (Corona Virus) relief allocation had already spent two hundred and ninety-five million, five hundred and seventy three thousand, eight hundred and twenty-three Pula (P295 573 823) or 69 percent of the budgetary provision.
“This spending level, together with the overall Ministry’s expenditure level of 38 percent at this time of the financial year, indicates that the remaining funds are quite insufficient to accommodate the Ministry’s requirements for the rest of the financial year. This situation is aggravated by uncertainties surrounding the evolution of COVID-19 variants “Minister Serame explained.
Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoTE), was allocated a budget of P4.60 billion in the current financial year (2021/2022), which accounts for 9.1 percent of the Ministerial Recurrent Budget.
Out of this amount, P1.33 billion is provided to cater for students’ tuition fees and allowances. As at 31st July 2021, the expenditure level was seven hundred and forty-nine million, four hundred and forty-seven thousand, seven hundred and seventy-three Pula (P749 447 773) or 56 percent of the approved budgetary provision. The expenditure was incurred on outstanding tuition fees carried over from the previous year.
THE P2.49 BILLION SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET
Making supplementary budget proposals to parliament Minister Peggy Serame told lawmakers that a total amount of P2.49 billion is requested by the four ministries.
This includes a total of P2.36 billion requested for the four (4) Ministries of: Finance and Economic Development (MFED); Health and Wellness (MoHW); Defence, Justice and Security (MDJS); and Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoTE).
An additional amount of P134 million is requested to augment the request under MDJS. Of the total request, a sum of P1.13 billion is requested as additional funding under the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
The amount is required for the procurement of medical supplies, mainly vaccines and associated medical items such as syringes, needles and surgical masks. The Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security requires additional funding of P204.5 million under the Botswana Defence Force to cover the costs of deploying and sustaining troops in Mozambique.
With respect to the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology a sum of one billion, one hundred and sixty-four million, four hundred and fifty thousand, seven hundred and ten Pula (P1 164 450 710) is requested.
Of this amount, four hundred and one million, eight hundred and eighty thousand, seven hundred Pula (P401 880 700) is required to cater for new students who meet the admission requirements, while the balance of seven hundred and sixty two million five hundred and seventy thousand Pula (P762 570 000) is required to restore the amount originally approved for tuition fees and allowances, which the Ministry used to pay outstanding invoices from tertiary service providers for financial year 2020/2021.
HOW WILL THE SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET BE FINANCED?
In order to finance the supplementary budget under both the Recurrent and Development budgets, Peggy Serame revealed that the Ministry of Finance considered the reprioritization of the overall budget allocation for financial year 2021/2022. “This is in view of the prevailing budget deficits; otherwise Government would be risking plunging the budget further into serious deficits, which are unsustainable.” She said.
Minister Serame explained that since the approved recurrent budget has already factored in measures such as the reduction of some key budget items, the Ministry recommends utilizing part of the balances under various Special Funds.
In terms of Section 40 (2) of the PFM Act, No 17 of 2011,the Minister responsible for finance is empowered to authorize any expenditure from any Special Fund for a purpose other than that contained in the written law or trust instrument establishing the Fund.
A total of four hundred and thirteen million, nine hundred and four thousand, three hundred and ten Pula (P413 904 310) has been identified from Special Funds balances.
Furthermore Ministry of Finance has recommended withdrawal of finance warrants for some of the approved Development Budget, targeting projects and programmes that have not yet commenced, in order to accommodate the requests from the Ministries of: Health and Wellness; Defence, Justice and Security; as well as Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology.
GOVERNMENT FAILED TO PLAN AHEAD -LEADER OF OPPOSITION
Responding to Minister Serame’s propositions Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando said the continuous requests for supplementary budgets mirrors terrible planning by the finance ministry and spending ministries.
“Just about four (4) months into a new financial year , your ministry is coming here again ,in just three(3) months after we approved the budget proposals, you are coming here to seek additional funding, what kind of planning and management of resources is this?” posed the Maun West lawmaker Saleshando said government ought to have foreseen the budget crises ahead.
“This current financial year budget was drawn by people well aware of the COVID-19 pandemic situation, if we can’t plan for a three (3) months period how are we going to achieve our long term goals and economic transformation agenda as a country”.
According Saleshando the COVID-19 pandemic has birthed instant millionaires culminating from dubious public procurement practices sponsored by direct tender appointment. “We are in this situation because government spending is so porous and wasteful; we are unable to contain the COVID-19 pandemic because of wasteful spending poor planning by government”