Njundu Drammeh

Performance budgeting we should now be doing, linking our money or taxes to the services we are receiving. We should also have a public budget which is based on the principles of efficiency, effectiveness, equity, transparency and sustainability.

How do we know if the allocations for each Ministry and the Office of the President in the fiscal year are well spent and according to purpose- value for money? Who audits the fiscal and programmatic performance of each of these sectors? Why is the allocation to the Office of the President more than that of Ministry of Agriculture?

If we agree that children and youth form about 68 per cent of our population, and we are serious about maximising the youth dividend, why do we have lesser allocations to the Ministries of Youth and that Children, Women and Social Welfare than Ministry of Defence? What informs such decisions and how are Ministry of Defense and Office of the President contributing, with greater budgetary allocations, contributing to the realisation of our human rights, the right to live in dignity and to be free from the fears of hunger, poverty and want?

Why can’t allocations be determined not just by need or who can streneously defend their request but by actual or real needs in line with national priorities and value for money?

Why must our budgets be heavily “overheads” driven and less on programmes? Check the budget lines for each Ministry and you would see my point- a chunk of every Ministry’s budget is stashed for salaries, maintenance, vehicles, fuels, travels, per firms,

Why can’t the people actively and meaningfully participate in the entire budget processes, from the point the call circular is released to execution and to audit? Why must the national budget be prepared in “secret”, behind closed doors, far away from the people whose lives it would affect?

Our traditional form of budgeting is anachronistic and unhelpful in many aspects. The budget headings and codes and itemisation do not often help us to know exactly how much of our taxes are going into addressing issues affecting children, persons with disabilities, women, etc. This makes accountability work and transparency a lot more difficult.

A national budget is second only to the Constitution in importance. A national budget is supposed to be the tool for the realisation of the rights of the people, the fulfillment of the State’s obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights of its citizens. How can such obligations be fulfilled when entities unconnected to the people’s desire to live in dignity are given greater allocations than those which are set forth to fulfil our rights?

A national budget which has a deficit between what is expected to be generated internally and foreign support or aid expected, is more about “overheads” and which is not “performance” oriented, cannot be expected to realise the human rights of her people. Until we change the way we do things, unless we demand performance, accountability, transparency and people’s participation in our budgetary processes, forget any meaningful development through our national budget.