Politically directed spending can push out MDAs spending plans -BAN
SIERRA LEONE, Freetown: The Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) has in its statement on the fiscal year (FY) 2022 Budget, raised issues with budget credibility which it says remains a big challenge in Sierra Leone.
The spending laid out in the budget, the Network says is not delivered during the year. Whilst debate and analysis of the budget laid before parliament is important, it is equally important to monitor the actual spending that takes place during the year they maintained.
In particular, BAN noted that, there have been continuing weaknesses in expenditure composition (high levels of reallocation between budget lines and a lack of adherence to budget policy). These changes made to the budget throughout the year it added are not brought back to parliament.
“These are often the result of politically directed spending, which can push out the spending plans of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) laid out in the budget” it says. It went on to state that, disbursements to MDAs are often late, meaning vital public goods and services are delayed or not delivered at all.
According to BAN, even as they recognize many positive aspects of the budget, it stressed that implementation is the challenge. BAN’s statement on the FY2022 Budget is based on a quick analysis of the budget highlights of key sectors and issues presented by the Minister of Finance to Parliament on the 19th November 2021.
Among other issues, domestic revenue mobilisation at national and local levels and public expenditure are key towards attaining a sustainable economic growth. Equally, they saw a good improvement in the aspect of the government having a debt clearance strategy and principles, which goes in line with the government having to obtain public debt under a ceiling beyond which they cannot borrow.
BAN welcomed the openness regarding information put out in the 2022 budget statement regarding the International Monetary Fund (IMF) SDRs of $283 million dollars provided in August 2021 to support the government’s policy and reform efforts aimed at reinforcing the country’s recovery from the pandemic, preserving macroeconomic stability, and sustaining inclusive long-term growth.
In the related next steps, BAN and partners say they look forward to deepening the relationship with the Ministry of Finance on the financing, execution and reporting on the use of SDRs to the citizen.
On Public Debt, they are concerned that public debt is on the increase. As stated in the 2022 budget, it is estimated at US$3.1 billion at the end of 2021 compared to US$3 billion in 2020.
While they acknowledge that government debt is part of fiscal management, BAN is concerned about the sustainability of rising debt levels and the shift from moderate to high risk of debt distress.
“We urge the government to disclose the annual debt ceiling beyond which Government cannot borrow to ensure that loans taken on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone are done in a transparent and accountable manner. Additionally, the debt-servicing burden continue to make it difficult for adequate servicing of the social sectors for the poor and marginalised. Government needs to work with other AU states and other partners to lobby for debt relief/cancellation” it says.
BAN members include: Christian Aid (CA), Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), ActionAid Sierra Leone (AASL), Search for Common Ground (SFCG), Network Movement for Justice (NMJD), Western Area Budget Education Advocacy Network (WABEAN) and Transparency International Sierra Leone. ZIJ/24/11/2021