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HomePoliticsThe National Bi-lateral Budget Discussions conclude but with numerous concerns from Non-State actors

The National Bi-lateral Budget Discussions conclude but with numerous concerns from Non-State actors

The National Bi-lateral Budget Discussions conclude but with numerous concerns from Non-State actors

The government of Sierra Leone signed a financing and grant agreement in August 2009 for the Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Project (IPFMRP). The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was introduced in Sierra Leone for determining the available financial and allocation of resources in line with government priorities.

The IPFMRP has a component for Non State Actors (NSAs) to provide oversight of budget management, accounting, procurement, revenue and tax policy and transparency in the management of public funds. Budget Advocacy Network and other NSAs recently participated in the bi-lateral budget discussions with Ministries/Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) 2011 to 2013.  A consultative meeting was held NSA’s to propose actions highlighting key observations and recommendations. These observations will provide information to assist the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) in improving the process in terms of its format, content and the manner of the discussions for the future. This is to ensure a participatory, accountable and transparent budgetary process as well as contribute to the ongoing reforms in public financial management.  Observations and recommendations include: –

1.    Budget Discussion Constraints: The budget discussions were not well coordinated, participation was lukewarm and, even then, most MDAs were not cooperative; arriving without the necessary documents.  Efforts must be made, both by the MDAs and the MoFED to facilitate the conduct of the process, which is already within a tight schedule.

2.    Budgeting Templates: MDAs used a variety of templates, even when budgeting for similar initiatives.  Therefore, the MoFED should standardize templates that are used by MDAs in presenting their statement of accounts and budget estimates.

3.    MDA Strategic Plans: Strategic plans are mostly not strategic, to a large extent are disjointed and not indicative of the PRSP II pillars they respond to.  In future MDAs should be able to express how their policy outcomes and work will contribute towards the implementation of the Agenda for Change.

4.    Policies, Programmes and Costing: Policies and programmes, for the most part, have not been properly costed or aligned to budgets.  The MoFED need to provide mentoring to MDAs and involve them more in general resource planning and overall programming as well as simplifying the process.  The competencies of NSAs to create gender sensitive and pro-poor budget outcomes should also be leveraged.

5.    MDA Plans and Procurement: No procurement plans provided by MDAs indicated the basis for procurement of goods and services as indicated in their budgets.  The MoFED should introduce a system where procurement plans are discussed as well as reinvigorating the MDAs budget and procurement committees.

6.    MDA Plans and Poverty Reduction: MDA plans should seek to clarify their mission statement and ensure they contribute towards poverty reduction, the wider development goals and national policy objectives.

7.    MDA Budgets and Accounting Practices: MDAs do not follow sound accounting practices highlighting the need for MDAs to move from cash basis of accounting to accruals that will focus on the utilization of the free balance software.

8.    Disparities in MDA Submissions: There were disparities in the MDAs’ submissions with some not heeding to the guidelines.  To improve this, incentives (reward and punishment) should be introduced and the process included in the performance contracts of Ministers.

9.    MTEF Process and Implications: The budgeting process of MDAs showed that they did not have an adequate grasp of the MTEF process; this must be addressed by the MoFED.

10.  Budget Process Set-backs and Incentive Measures: In relation to the delays in the process, the NSAs back the MoFED in introducing stringent measures against MDAs who fail to make submissions on time or whose conduct slows down the overall process.

11.  The Government Budgeting and Accountability Act 2005: There is a need to review the Government Budgeting and Accountability Act 2005 and its Financial Regulations to make it consistent with evolving public policy priorities and options.

12.  Access to Budget Information: The NSAs backs the Freedom of Information Initiative which supports the enactment of a statute to provide access to relevant information without hindrance.

13.  Budget Performance: The budget process has not generated information on the performance of budget implementation.  Therefore MDAs should provide quarterly reports to the MoFED who should then provide an opinion on the overall performance of the budget.

A comprehensive position paper on this issue is also available. For more information please contact the following – Ambrose James BAN Chairman, 076604298 and Patrick Zombo, BAN Coordinator 076605087 – C/o Christian Aid, 8 Kosie Williams drive, Off Aberdeen road, Freetown

Non State Actors’ (NSAs) signature

Budget Advocacy Network (BAN); Concern for Public Accountability and Transparency (CoPAT); National Accountability Group (NAG); Search For Common Ground (SFCG)/ Talking Drum Studio (TDS); Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD); Hands Empowering the Less Privilege in Sierra Leone (HELP-SL); Campaign for Good Governance (CGG); Civil Society Movement (CSM); Actionaid International Sierra Leone (AAISL); a cross section of District Budget Oversight Committees (DBOCs).

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