Sunday, June 18, 2017

Financial crunch hits key EAC commission: report


By Zephania Ubwani @ubwanizg3

Arusha. Inadequate funding may force the East African Science and Technology Commission (Easteco) to halt some of its activities.

A recently-released report by the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) said the approved budget from the 2016/2017 financial year was inadequate to cover major activities of the institution of the East African Community.

The critically affected activities include evaluation of technologies for agricultural products, establishment of a regional journal of scientific research and technologies and convening annual youth innovation forum.

During the current fiscal year ending on June 30, Easteco was allocated $1,196,138 for its expenditure, comprising $ 676,076 from the partner states and $520,066 from the general reserves.

But by February this year, only $424,623 had been received from the partner states — Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda — and $ 100,000 from the EAC General Reserves.

According to the report by the Eala Committee of Accounts,which was tabled before the Eala plenary session held here recently, the Kigali-based institution received was equivalent to 44 per cent of its 2016/2017 budget.

Due to the funding constraints, a big chunk of the money - 64 per cent -went to salary and employee benefits, administrative costs 25 per cent while programmatic and related expenses consumed only eight per cent.

“The commission is constrained to the extent that in addition to untimely remittances, it is subjected to zero increment of budget,” the report said, warning: “Always paying salaries and administrative expenses without activities to achieve the objectives defeats the purpose for which the institutions were established.”

For the 2017/2018 financial year, the semi-autonomous Commission under EAC, was allocated $1,500,164 which Eala Committee members hinted could not suffice its expenditure.

Beside the funding hitches, the Committee observed that the commission lacks the technical staff to execute its mandate which hinges on initiating programmes aimed to promote science, technology and innovation in the region.

Only one out of 25 members of the staff is professional, forcing the institution to resort to use consultants which, they observed, may not be sustainable.

“Easteco being technical in nature,lacking the requisite technical staff will surely stall the achievement of the institution’s objectives,”, the report said, urging the EAC Council of Ministers to ensure proper staffing by September this year.

The Council of Ministers, which is the policy organ of the Community, should also ensure timely remittances of funds to all new EAC institutions, foster alternative funding and scrap off the zero-budget increment policy.

It was further recommended that funds should be availed to Easteco by the EAC Ad Hoc Service Commission to enable the institution recruit staff and revise financing model to allow direct remittances by the partner states to Easteco.

Establishment of Easteco was endorsed by the EAC Heads of State during their June 2007 summit while the agreement headquarters between EAC and Rwanda government was signed in February 2014 and started operations shortly thereafter.

It is one of the newly-created EAC institutions, the others being the East African Health Research Commission (EAHRC) based in Bujumbura in Burundi, the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) with headquarters in Zanzibar and the East African Competition Authority.