By Dr. Majwala Meaud Major
The current problems of inadequate funding of the National Examination Board that threatened to cause a delay in the marking and release of results and the Government proposal to request Parliament for budget supplementary for the ministry of defence in order to facilitate UPDF soldiers in South Sudan is a sign of our inadequate budgeting process.
When we budget, we always base our mind-set on projections depending on the resources at hand and the motives (targets and goals) that we intend to achieve. In our budgeting process, we should always be focused, goal-directed, driven by a clear foresight (ability to think ahead of time) and reality-orientation basing on aspirations of the populace as we always hope for the better.
Those responsible for our national budget as a development and planning tool always ought to cut their niche, on merit, simply because success or failure in today’s development or in the near future of us all exhibits a great tendency to be taken on their account as national leaders, when it comes to proper planning, allocation, implementation and financial management.
What a government with a huge appetite and massive lack of responsibility to the citizens/tax payers? Most of the time our budgets do not address the real issues that can transform the country- it is all about spending (consumption side) and not result-oriented (production side)- can we hold our government accountable in terms of results or service delivery.
Budgeting with no fiscal discipline is redundant in that we cannot divorce the budget from issues like accountability or performance appraisal. In fact our budget did not specifically focus on razor-guided missiles to fight financial mismanagement and corruption. Part of the problem is that we budget and then plan- that is why we only make symbolic action.
Misplaced priorities, corruption and bureaucracies are failing our budget performance. Uganda’s government spending as a share of GDP is one of the highest in the region and keeps expanding rapidly. However, it is important to note that the size of public spending in Uganda does not necessarily translate into spending effectiveness and efficiency.
To implement projects and polices, the Government requires money(resources) as well as institutional structure in order to deal with inefficiency and procurement challenges that breed and promote corruption to the detriment of effective service delivery. The budgetary process provides a means of allocating the available resources among the competing national interests which they could be applied. The purposes we should wish to use national resources must have some merit that is sufficiently worthwhile to justify public spending.
Technically, budgeting for a poor economy like Uganda requires a great deal of time and effort to analytically evaluate and assess the key elements on national policy list, it also requires an almost certain knowledge of the unknown relationships of spending to programme success and the need to see grand plans for a jointly run budget by different government departments.
For strategic implementation of the budget, we must always extend the time limit beyond a single financial year as we attempt to ask and answer questions about the medium and long term implications of development programmes decided on with clarity on accountability, for example the government can be offering salary increments to key civil servants like teachers and health workers in small percentages for recurrent budgets.
It is now clear that although there are some technical reasons for the apparent short-comings in the budgeting and implementation process, but the most severe problems are political. We can always take efforts to reduce government expenditure on non-productive sectors and back-door spending.
With disciplined government expenditure, back-door spending will also be reduced and only remains on uncontrollable expenditure. Let us have our boots on ground to act and we should always be aware that managing the wealth of public wallets is a question of public trust, fiscal discipline and team work. It is a hard going but with political will and building fully empowered institutions, we can run a race to win in matching promises and performance for national development.
The writer is the president of sustainable world Initiative, East Africa.