‘No room for budget raise’
There is no money —Treasury
As parliamentary clusters continue scrutinising allocations outlined in the national budget policy statement, which Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe presented to Parliament last week Thursday, it has transpired that the Treasury has no additional funds to accommodate requests for budget increments.
Principal Secretary for Finance Patrick Zimpita disclosed this Thursday.
Already, a number of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAS) have come out to complain that resources they have been allocated in the budget are not adequate and that their operations would be affected.
The institutions that have asked for increments include the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, which has been allocated K4 billion instead of the K123.3 billion it sought.
Another one is the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which wanted K1.5 billion but has been allocated K717 million.
But Zimpita said there are no resources to cater for the requested increments, indicating that the resource envelope is small.
“Putting all the resources together, the domestic resources we are getting [amount to] about K2 trillion but our budget is too consumptive. As such, we have a gap of K1.5 trillion and this becomes a national issue. Where do we get this amount so that we satisfy all the votes we are talking about?
“[In] each and every vote, they are looking for more resources but the budget can’t provide those resources; those resources are not there. So it’s just like in a house, if the father receives K200 but expenditure is K400, at some point the father has to make a decision like which child should I send to school? Which one should I leave behind? That’s the situation we are in now,” Zimpita said.
He added that, at the moment, they are prioritising the most important projects.
He said other projects are also important but would have to wait for the resource envelope to get stable.
Ironically, while claiming to have a thin resource envelope, the government has increased the amount traditional leaders get as honoraria.
It has also announced that it will, for the first time, introduce a transport allowance for civil servants.
Thursday, officials from the Treasury also told lawmakers that it is not just votes under discussion that are suffering, as the Ministry of Finance itself suffers low funding.
“We are in this together. Would you also talk to other clusters to help us. Make them (MDAs) understand that there are no resources,” Zimpita said.
Co-chairperson for the Budget and Public Accounts Cluster Gladys Ganda agreed with Zimpita, saying MDAs should work with minimal resources.
“Indeed, we have met a number of stakeholders and all of them are complaining that their resources are inadequate; so, yes, I do agree with the Ministry of Finance that the resources are limited.
“However, there is also a need for the Ministry of Finance to check the expenditure side because it doesn’t make sense for people to be prudent, in terms of resource spending, and, then, you don’t have any cost-cutting measures yourself. So, yes, resources are not there but can they also check on revenue leakages?” Ganda said.
Co-chairperson for the Natural Resources and Agriculture Cluster Werani Chilenga is on record to have faulted the Treasury for disregarding recommendations made in clusters.
He said this affects the oversight role that members of Parliament play.