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BUDGET MONITORING

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In my last article I pondered on the budget and I contended that it was a good budget, a sentiment which I maintain thus far.

I had promised that this week I would delve into an analysis of the likely impact of the budget on the basic life of emaSwati and its impact on economic growth. However, since the Appropriation Bill is not yet public, I am left wanting for data to complete the ex-ante (before the implementation) impact assessment. The Appropriation Bill is crucial for the calculation of the multipliers and its likely impact on growth. Hence this week I will delve into budget monitoring.

Budget monitoring is a process by which citizen groups observe meetings and analyse public documents during the formulation and approval stages of the budget cycle. They do this type of monitoring in order to determine and raise awareness of how public funding is allocated by government. Budget monitoring is not just confined to the formulation and approval stages of the budget, but it’s embodied through the budget cycle; being planning and execution and post-ante analysis (when the actual expenditure has occurred). This is a call to civil society organisations and interest groups to hold government accountable in actual expenditures versus planned expenditures.

An example of budget monitoring would be asking questions around the E22 million budget for the dialogue in the current budget, the item has not been spent yet E30 million is budgeted for the financial year 2023/24. Civil society should demand accountability on the E200 million COVID-19 allocation; government ought to be demanded to explain how this money was spent and if re-allocated, a proper explanation be given. Civil society organisations and interest groups elected to keep quiet around these very glaring issues. Civil society and interest groups, we need you to come to play and call for transparency and make the right noise. Below is a primer on the tools that can be used for budget monitoring.

Back to envelope analysis – finance method

This entails digging through the estimate books, which are readily available and accessible across all ministries. The estimate books contain actual expenditure and budget information by head (different departments within ministries) for the previous year. A financial analysis of the expenditure items will show deviances (differences between planned expenditure and actual expenditures). It is critical that the deviances are followed as they reveal areas that are either overspent or underspent. They will show where re-allocations have been effected, it is the re-allocations that are dangerous and allow for the mismanagement of the budget, they open up room for corruption. Interest groups should ensure to follow up, even though the analysis and the budget may lag behind the budget and actual expenditures, it gives great insight into the prudence of government expenditures. To ensure that civil society and other interest groups move with the cycle, this technique must be executed in parallel with other budget techniques.

Gender-based budgeting

This involves conducting a gender-based assessment of budgets, incorporating a gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process, and restructuring revenues and expenditures in order to promote gender equality. This may be a bit tricky in that the impacts of the budget may seem neutral on the citizens, however, applying the gender lens in the budgeting process reveals the gender biases that may be inherent within the budget. It involves an analysis of the capital expenditures, recurring expenditures and transfer payments and the determination of how the budget affects people of different genders, race, age, class, ethnicity and geographic analysis.

This analysis can be done at budget speech level, planning level and expenditure levels. It is important to analyse the wage bill for the proportion of the budget that falls on women compared to men. Social expenditures and transfer payments must be analysed and determination of the proportion of the budget that falls on men versus women. The budget should also be analysed for its impact on the practical gender needs and the strategic gender needs. A budget that focuses largely on practical gender needs is deemed as not challenging the status quo, simply entrenching gender inequalities that exist.

Issue-based budgeting

Issue-based budgeting is the practice of making budget decisions and allocating funds based on the needs of the community. Civil society can analyse the budget and follow up on how it addresses a particular issue pertinent to the society at large; an example is that of pro-poor budgets. In this case, civil society analyses the budget and checks for the relevance of the tabled budget on poverty alleviation. This technique can be used to analyse the budget across the vast spectrum of issues facing society, it can be done ex-ante, during implementation and post ante.

A call to CANGO

As a coordinating body and an entity which is said to have a budget monitoring component, your efforts are wanting. Budget monitoring is not just about organising a roundtable to analyse the budget speech, but an in-depth process of monitoring throughout the budgeting cycle. This is a call to civil society and interest groups to come to the podium.

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