PRETORIA – GOVERNMENT has commenced the process of revising Zambia`s national budgeting format in order to achieve integrated development planning with the budget process as well as facilitate fiscal decentralisation, among other objectives.
The exercise follows Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda`s announcement at the presentation of the 2014 national budget last year that Government would revise the current budget format to enhance public service delivery. This also comes after the subsequent approval of the Planning and Budget Policy by Cabinet in March this year.
A team of eight technocrats from the Ministry of Finance visited Pretoria from 12 – 15 May to undertake a study of the country`s Department of National Treasury during which they will be taken through the South African national budgeting system.
Chief Budget Analyst at the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Mwaka Mukubesa said that the Zambian Government has picked on South Africa as a model because the country has been cited in the Open Budget Index as one of the success stories in effective budgeting.
The Open Budget Index is a system created by the American-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a research outfit that analyses the impacts of budget policies and promotes effective approaches to reducing poverty.
Mrs. Mukubesa, who is leading the team, said approval of the Planning and Budget Policy by Cabinet envisages the re-engineering of development planning and budget process to enhance the performance or results orientation of the annual budget; improve budget transparency; facilitate more effective National Assembly oversight over public finances and raise accountability of Ministries, Provinces and other Spending Agencies.
She said Zambia has been using Activity Based Budgeting (ABB) system which has, over the years, presented some weaknesses such as bulky budget documentation which hinders effective decision making by the Legislature. The revision is focusing on reforms that will entail achieving results rather than just conforming to financial regulations, processes and procedures.
A number of stakeholders have described the Yellow Book as largely a listing of numerical data with limited or no text to adequately inform them regarding the purpose, objectives or results to be attained through the proposed budget allocations and how these objectives relate to the policy and development priorities of the Government
Mrs. Mukubesa further said that there was almost complete absence of information on the outputs that are to be delivered by spending the allocated funds in the Yellow Book. She said this undermined transparency and accountability, as well as the performances-focus of the budget.
“The Yellow Book does not show what programs or projects are to be achieved. It is difficult to link the areas budgeted for to the National Development Plan. We are trying to ensure that the nomenclature in the budget ties to the National Development Plan and make it more focused. We want to make the national budget more user-friendly. We have come up with the concept and we are now trying to come up with a format that will be acceptable to all,” Mrs. Mukubesa said.
The study tour includes lectures by senior South African Government officials speaking on issues relating to budget planning and preparation, as well as other issues linking to the objectives enshrined in the recently approved Zambian Planning and Budget Policy.
Mrs. Mukubesa was speaking when her delegation paid a courtesy call on Zambia`s High Commissioner to South Africa, His Excellency Muyeba Chikonde.
First Secretary (Press)