By Ramatoulie Jawo
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Public Accounts (FPAC) presented its consolidated report on the 2024 Estimate of Revenue and Expenditure to the Parliament on Monday, November 27, 2023, for consideration and adoption.
The parliamentary Standing Orders 81 (1), 84 (1), and (2) mandate National Assembly Committees to scrutinize the Draft Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, offering recommendations. The results from these Committees are then consolidated by the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC), accompanied by a motion for parliamentary debate.
During the presentation, Hon. Alhagie S. Darboe highlighted that Ministers , departments and agencies (MDAs) emphasized resource gaps compared to their mandates, citing limited monthly cash allocations affecting productivity. Despite facing a D4.450 billion budget deficit, the Committees found limited room for significant changes.
“MDAs highlighted resource gaps in comparison with their mandates. Almost all budget entities cried over the limited monthly cash allocations, which directly impacted their productivity. However, considering the limited resource envelope, coupled with the D4.450 billion budget deficit, Committees could not make significant changes to the budget,” he said.
Based on the Committee’s findings, Hon. Darboe recommended that the Assembly approve the amended Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the Government’s Fiscal Year 2024.
During the presentation, Hon. Darboe acknowledged errors in the Ministry of Finance’s initial submission to the National Assembly, specifically in some budget entities. He noted the absence of savings in the Office of the President’s (OP) budget and the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) budget. The Committee recommended reallocation to priority budget lines, as outlined in the attached addendum.
“There was no savings under the OP’s budget. However, the Committee recommends reallocation to the priority budget line, as indicated in the attached addendum. Equally, there was no savings under the OVP’s budget however, the Committee recommends reallocation to priority budget lines as indicated in the attached addendum,” he said.
Furthermore, the Committee proposed reductions from various budget lines, including D15,800,000 from the National Assembly’s budget, D74,300,000 from the Judiciary, D48,582,500 from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), D36,583,000 from the National Audit Office (NAO), D58,154,000 from the Ministry of Finance, and D1,470,000 from the Ombudsman’s budget.
“Following careful review of the budget submissions from the various Institutions, Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and having carefully considered the various recommendations put forward by the various Committees noting that the Government continues to operate with a deficit of D4.45 billion and FPAC’s commitment to reduce the budget deficit without adversely affecting the operations of MDAs,” he said. Considering the ongoing deficit and the commitment to reduce it without negatively impacting MDA operations, the Committee suggested urgent implementation of a revenue review across government institutions by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA), particularly focusing on self-raised revenues by MDAs. The Committee also recommended that the NAO conduct a revenue audit across MDAs.
Moreover, the Committee proposed the National Assembly’s consideration of separating Finance as a standalone committee from FPAC to concentrate on budget and other related financial matters. It emphasized the importance of maintaining the total reductions made to alleviate the deficit and urged the government to honor its contractual obligations with institutions to prevent accumulating debts. The Committee underscored the constitutional imperative that the Ministry of Finance should not alter the submitted budget of Independent Institutions moving forward.
“The total reductions made should be maintained towards reducing the deficit. The government should honor its contractual obligations with its institutions to avoid accumulating debts and that, going forward, the Ministry of Finance must not change the submitted budget of the Independent Institutions as dictated by the Constitution,” the committee recommended.