'Enhance parliamentary oversight'

SHARE   |   Monday, 12 March 2018   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
'Enhance parliamentary oversight'

The International Budget Partnership which releases Open Budget Survey reports have noted that most countries are increasingly becoming secretive when it comes to how they raise and spend public funds. The organisation uses internationally accepted criteria developed by multilateral organisations based on 109 indicators to measure budget transparency.  “These indicators assess whether the central government makes eight key budget documents available to the public online in a timely manner and whether these documents present budget information in a comprehensive and useful way, “reads the survey report. Botswana is one of the countries which provide the public with scant information scoring 8 out of 100 and  in the same score line as  war torn Somalia, Comoros and Zambia. In SADC region, it is only above Swaziland and Lesotho some of the poorest countries in the region. One of the reasons why Botswana scored lowest is due to lack of available documents on budgets published online on the relevant government body’s website. They have been concern that government’s ministries websites are not updated regularly even those ministries responsible for Information Technology.  “Online availability is now considered a basic standard for the publication of government information. As a result of this change, Botswana no longer receives credit for the Enacted Budget and the Audit report, which are produced in hard copy,” reads the report. Since 2015, OBS has found out that Botswana has increased the availability of budget information by increasing the information provided in the pre- budget statement.

However the country has decreased the availability of budget information by failing to publish the executive’s budget proposal and the Year-End Report online in a timely manner. On Public Participation, Botswana performed badly again scoring 15 out of 100 and this is attributed by failure to provide opportunities for the public to engage in the budget process. Parliamentarians have been vindicated by the OBS report for their complaint that their contribution towards budget oversight is very limited and they are just used to rubber stamp decisions of the Executive. “The legislature provides limited oversight during the budget cycle. This score reflects that the legislature provides limited oversight during the planning stage of the budget cycle and limited oversight during the implementation stage of the budget cycle,” reads the OBS report. Some of the barriers to effective legislative oversight are that a debate on budget policy by the legislative does not take place prior to the tabling of the Executive’s Budget Proposal. Legislative committee does not examine and publish reports on their analyses of the Executive’s budget Proposal online and that they don’t examine or publish reports on in-year budget implementation online.
During the debate on the budget allocated to parliament, MP for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse called for the enhancement of parliament when it comes to budget processing. “Because we are debating the Budget, it is important that we enhance parliamentary oversight of the executive and should have parliamentary Budget office,” said Keorapetse. MP for Bonnignton South Ndaba Gaolathe also agreed that Parliament should have its own capacity and capabilities to evaluate issues of budgetary and financial appropriation. He agreed with Keorapetse that there is need for a Parliamentary Budget office, as recommended by OBS. Open Budget Survey of 2017 also noted that Botswana does not have an independent fiscal Institution (IFI). “While IFIs are not yet widespread globally, they are increasingly recognised as an important source of independent, nonpartisan information,” reads the report adding that IFIs insititutions include parliamentary budget offices and fiscal councils. OBS also questioned the independence of the Auditor General whose removal cannot be done without legislative or judicial approval yet s/he is appointed by the President.