The new budget cycle in Tanzania: Has it provided more space for stakeholders to engage?

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Despite the fact that the Tanzanian government has brought in a new budget cycle, citizens are yet to be fully engaged in the budget process, it was claimed recently in Dar es Salaam. This was said by Honorable Member of Parliament (MP) Luhaga Joelson Mpina during the July Policy Forum breakfast debate at the British Council.

Mpina said that according to the recent Open Budget Index survey (OBI-2012) which assessed whether the central government in each country surveyed avails the 8 key budget documents to the public, data showed that Tanzania scored 47 out of 100 below Kenya 57 and Uganda 51. This meant, he said, that the government provides the public with only some information on the national budget and financial activities during the financial year, posing a challenge for citizens to participate fully to hold the government accountable for management of public funds. Mpina illustretaed by giving the example of the Mid-Year Review and End-Year Report not being produced in our country.

On the changes to the budget cycle, he said that before the financial year 2013/2014 the national budget was debated and approved by the parliament before discussion of the Ministerial 'votes'. With the new budget cycle, however, MPs debate and approve the Ministerial votes before the passing the national budget. This, he stressed, provides room for the MPs and other stakeholders to advice and make necessary changes on the proposed budget accordingly.

He profoundly praised the establishment of the parliamentary budget committee which gives the parliament the chance to scrutinize and examine carefully the proposed budget and hence make changes before it is tabled in the house.  Previously, the Executive’s budget office and other government officials dominated the budgeting process and there was no room for the changes. The establishment of the parliamentary budget committee has provided a link between the parliament, CSOs and the other stakeholders in the budgeting process, he said.

Furthermore, he said that the changes in the parliamentary regulations of 2013 allow the debate and approval of the national budget before 30th June of every financial year, allowing government to immediately begin implementation of the approved budget on the 1st July. Before these changes, MPs and government officials were busy debating the budget up till August. The budget approval by the legislature was made during June through to August, hence the budget implementation started at the middle of September, meaning a delay of commencement on budget execution.

He concluded by saying that despite the changes made in Tanzania Budget Cycle, there are still some challenges affecting the budgeting process as a whole including the lack of a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO). The proposed independent Parliamentary Budget Office would have technical capacity to analyze the budget and to help parliamentarians and other stakeholders to better understand what are otherwise complex technical documents, once established. This would help increase credibility, promote transparency, provide elaborate options for spending cuts and promote accountability.

Issues surrounding the Parliamentary Budget Office were elaborated in detail by the second presenter, Mr. Nicholas Lekule, the Manager of Policy Analysis at Policy Forum who discussed the role of the PBO in enhancing the budgetary oversight function. He mentioned the typical roles of the PBO as being scrutiny and analysis of the budget and provision of related information to the Budget Committee and other financial select committees of the National Assembly. He gave examples of countries like Kenya and Uganda which have established a PBO in their respective countries and how they have benefited. This included Budget Committees being fully supported, the improved involvement of parliament in the budget process through enhanced MPs' analytical capacity. Overall, he said, the quality of debates in the house improved and the oversight function of Parliament was strongly felt.

He concluded by saying that there is a great need to establish an independent PBO in our country which would respond to parliamentary committees requests and not individual MPs to avoid the risk of partisan politics.

Please find the attached presentations which were made: