There is saying that a good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolathe proved that to be true when debating supplementary estimates expenditure from the Consolidated and Development Funds.
Gaolathe, who is a member of the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament, said that as a committee they have failed to apply themselves adequately when approving the supplementary budgets for different ministries.
“The stakes are very high and P2 billion is a lot of money. We cannot expect to make any concrete decision within five days about it,” said Gaolathe. He said that as a committee they must take the blame for the shoddy job, noting that there was no system used when looking at ministries’ requests.
The soft-spoken legislator said that in all fairness, the blame should not be passed to members of a certain political party but all members of the committee must take the blame.
“We should have built a system as a committee and be able to look at the requests carefully,” he said in a soft but convincing voice adding that what they did is a travesty.
He said the decision to approve the supplementary budget was based on opinion not on any system or method. This can lead to financial catastrophe. Gaolathe said that as a committee they have failed the nation in their job.
The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President said that they used a simple method looking at five criterions. The first one he said was to determine whether the money requested deserves to be supplementary, sustainability, cost benefit analysis and whether they have capacity to manage the funds.
The Gaborone Bonnington South legislator revealed that most of the ministries did not meet the criteria as they scored less than 50%.
Earlier on, chairman of the committee Kgotla Autlwetse said that as a committee they were worried that some of the requests did not meet the criteria for supplementary funding as they appeared to be budgetable items.
The debate took a fever pitch when Member of Parliament for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi categorically stated that he will not support the request to approve supplementary budget for DIS.
“How can I approve budget for DIS while they don’t account to us,” he rhetorically asked.
“There has been suspicion that some of the money it used to kill people and I will be very stupid to approve money for people to go and do evil things,” hit out the militant UDC legislator.
Tati West MP, Biggie Butale called Mmolotsi to order for insinuating that DIS kills people and speaker Gladys Kokorwe urged him to withdraw the statement.
Mmolotsi stood his ground, saying he has never said that DIS kills but only said that there have been suspicions they do, but would later withdraw after repeated calls by the speaker.
Continuing on his debate, Mmolotsi said that there has been suspicion that BDP is benefiting from the DIS proceedings and as such he has his own reservation about approving their request.
DIS has requested supplementary budget of P28 million.
Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Dr Phenyo Butale when making his deliberation on the supplementary budget, said that as legislators they must be worried if supplementary budget can go up to P2 billion.
“I am just wondering how some of the issues including in the supplementary budget have not been seen in the normal budgeting system,” said Butale.
He called on Parliament not to approve Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) requests as they are not answerable to the August house.
Like Gaolatlhe, Butale suggested that Parliament must develop a system to determine how they allocate funds to different ministries.
Tati East MP Samson Guma said though he supports the supplementary budget he is concerned at the country’s budgetary process.
“Every year we have the same ministries requesting for supplementary budgeting yet at the end of the financial year there is always some unused funds. Why can’t we look at ministries which have not exhausted their funds and divert it to those that want supplementary,” questioned Guma.
There are a number of things which raise eyebrows about the supplementary budget in Botswana in general and the one presented by the Minister in particular, hit out Selibe Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse.
The youthful BCP legislator said that the amount that the minister asked them to approve is colossal, “Ordinarily supplementary budgets are meant for emergency cases and or unforeseen pressing financial needs. The problem is that there is failure by the government to operate within the originally allocated budget and this point to deterioration in the country’s budget discipline.”
Keorapetse said that transparency and accountability are key tenets of democracy and key to government budgeting process and raised concern that the two key tenets are missing when dealing with security matters.
“For a very long time, defence and security matters have been defined by the executive with Parliament playing a minimal role of rubberstamping military and security budget proposals and other decisions,” said Keorapetse.
He said that there is a need to scrutinise defence and security budget requirements without being constrained by the obsession about secrecy.
Member of the Finance Estimates Committee who is also Member of Parliament for Maun West, Tawana Moremi called on ministries to exercise discipline when using public funds.
“Some of you think that when President Ian Khama talks about discipline he means closing of pubs. No. Those of us who understand him well, know that he is referring even to financial prudence,” said Moremi throwing Parliament into stiches since him and Khama do not see eye to eye.
Moremi said that MPs must be inducted on budgeting systems so that they understand what they are dealing with as most of them are clueless.
On the Finance and Estimates committee, the maverick Francistown South MP said that there is need to look at certain qualification when appointing people to the committee.
Mmolotsi said that he is sympathetic with the Ministry of Education and Skills Development request as they are facing numerous challenges.
Nine ministries submitted supplementary budget requests amounting to P1, 351,615,020 from the consolidated fund, out of which P1, 104,713,370 is being recommended for approval for only eight organisation of expenditure.
Ministries of Education and Skills Development, Defence, Justice and Security and Local Government and Rural Development took the larger amount sharing around P998 million among themselves.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the lesser amount of P1million to restore the amount withdrawn from the Contingency Fund which was used to provide humanitarian assistance to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.