The newly reconstituted Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament says it is not ready to carry out its oversight function for the 2016/17 Budget because most of its members have not undergone training on the programme-based budgeting which Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe has rolled out to all ministries this year.
At the start of the financial year, Gondwe presented a programme based budget which he said would allow Parliament to carry out its oversight function more efficiently, since resources are tied to specific results that can be tracked.
During the Parliament meeting, the committee noted that the programme-based budgeting was deceiving as controlling officers could just list indicators with corresponding allocations without justification when it was observed that under State Residences, the president was geared to make 30 state visits which was equivalent to two a month.
But Rhino Chiphiko, who has been re-elected chairperson of the committee, said the members were not comfortable to scrutinise the programme-based budget which has been rolled out to all ministries and departments.
Chiphiko said there has been no tangible training or follow up to the ministries which piloted the framework in the past two financial years for the committee to note any challenges encountered in the administration.
“The ministry promised to train members of the committee but it is yet to do that. The programme based budget has been rolled out to all ministries but there has been report on how it progressed when it was first piloted,” he said.
He said training of the committee has become necessary because the membership changes on a yearly basis according to the Constitution.
But in an interview yesterday, Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya said training of the Budget and Finance Committee would take place next Thursday after recognising that the programme-based budget framework was new to a lot of stakeholders.
“Based on the outcome of the meeting, we will see whether reports from pilot ministries and departments are necessary,” Msowoya said.
From the 21 members who were allocated to the committee in 2014, there are seven new members who have been rotated from other committees by their political parties.
The request stems from the challenges which were encountered during the 2016/17 budget meeting of Parliament in reading and understanding the new budget documents.
Chiphiko’s claims are contrary to Gondwe’s assertions in the 2016/17 budget statement that his ministry held extensive workshops with various stakeholders including members of the Budget and Finance Committee to allow for a seamless transition from the output based budgeting framework.
The lack of training in the new budget framework was observed when MPs converged in committee meetings to scrutinise the budget before the plenary session when they could not locate approved and revised budget allocations in the votes.
For example, under the vote State Residences there is a Presidency Office and Residence Management with sub-programmes which include household and building management, security services, VVIP functions and communication among others which are costed according to output indicators.
This means that if K1.4 billion was allocated to VVIP functions, the budget indicates the number of state functions the president will attend in the financial year as well as the number of development trips and state