Monday, May 14, 2007
Government bureaucracy, procurement procedures, low absorption capacity and slow donor inflow are some of the factors that have affected the implementation of the 2006/07 budget, Economic and political analysts have observed.
National Assembly recently announced that Parliament will be meeting from May 21, 2007 to discuss the 2007 to 2008 national budget. However analysts observed a number of developmental activities that were budgeted in the 2006/07 budget are yet to be implemented.
The experts observed that the 2006/2007 national budget has made notable strides in economy recovery, food security and microeconomic stability, but failed in implementation of development infrastructures which has been attributed bureaucracy.
Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) Executive Director Andrew Kumbatira observed that government was doing well in implementing the Recurrent Account but said low absorption capacity in government civil service was affecting the implementation of Development Account.
He bemoaned the civil service inability to spend the money allocated in the budget in a specified period which resulted in low budget expenditures in ministries and government departments.
Kumbatira cited an example of Ministry of Health, which he said used only 40 per cent of the money which was allocated to the ministry in the 2006/07 budget.
“When ministries and departments under perform it means development slows down and also means budget will not make the intended impact and no meaningful dent can be made on our poverty,” he said.
Kumbatira attributed the slow implementation of the budget to the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the civil service in the country which he described as a vehicle to the implementation of budget.
“We would like government to quickly look at the civil service reforms to make the civil service more efficient and effective to be able to implement the budget fully,” he said.
In the K140 billion budget, document number four, highlights several developmental programmes and projects, which are yet to be implemented about ten months after the budget was approved.
Malawi News investigations revealed some of the developmental projects and programmes highlights in the 2006/07 budget that were to be implemented, are still at the planning.
In Ministry of Education, about K538 million was set aside for the purchase of learning materials and desks, K145 million which was meant for the construction of 40 community day secondary schools, K100 for the rehabilitation of four national secondary schools, K903 for the development and rehabilitation of University of Malawi K371 million for the University Trust Fund and K40 million for University of Science and Technology while K15 million was set aside for the construction of school for the special needs students. However non of the projects has been implemented.
In ministry of Health, despite the drug shortage in the country, money amounting to K494 million for the purchase of medical supplies was set aside while K200 million was earmarked to construction of Blantyre District Hospital.
Some of the under utilization of allocations in the K140 billion budget included the construction of Chiromo bridge in Nsanje pegged at K236 million, K2.7 billion was approved for the rehabilitation and sinking of boreholes while K84 million was set aside for rural electrification in 58 trading centres in the country. The rural electrification programmes was set to complete in September 2006.
A Member of Parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance, who is also MP for Mzimba East constituency Abbie Shaba described the 2006/07 budget as a mixed bag saying it achieved its objectives despite some shortfalls.
Shaba said, though budget cannot achieve all its objectives, 2006/07 managed to make strides in food security through fertilizer subsidy programme, private sector participation as well as roads rehabilitation through public works programmes.
“Through this budget we have seen the construction of roads like Kamphata, Ntchisi and Zomba-Jali-Chitakale,” he said.
He, however, said the Budget and Finance committee—which was meeting this week—noted that there was delay in distribution of learning materials in school, construction of girls’ hostels, sinking of borehole and also construction of teacher training schools and purchase of drugs.
“The problem is in developmental projects we are using donor money which needs transparency and accountability. The procurement procedures are also long, complicated but unavoidable. There is slow progress in procurement procedures,” he said.
An economist, who opted for anonymity, said there were a number of factors that affects the implementation including natural disasters and inflow of donor money.
“Some of the money which the donors pledged in the 2006/07 on development Account was not yet in due to procedures in various foreign governments. The problem is that they fund direct to the projects.
“In the event of natural disasters money can be diverted from on vote to another. Our budgets have always been theoretical,” he said.
Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe said some of the projects were at the planning stage, some were still waiting for donor funding while some projects are not started because there was no money for the projects.
Gondwe cited the Chiromo bridge project that waiting for money from Japanese government while rehabilitation of University was under planning.
“There is no money for the construction of 40 community day secondary schools,” he said
Gondwe, however, dismissed the assertion that civil service has no capacity to implement the budget saying the availability of money was a problem not the human resources.
An Economic lecturer at University of Malawi, Polytechnic campus Abel Mwanyungwe the 2006/07 budget has succeeded in stabilizing the countries economy but there was a big problem in the implementation of various programmes and projects.