Sunday, April 15, 2018

CAG’S REPORT: The good,the bad and the ugly


Today’s subject-matter here’s the report by the controller and auditor-general (CAG), Prof Mussa Assad, on the findings of his audit of the government budget for the 2016/17 financial year.

The good part of the matter is that the report was tabled for appropriate action in the ongoing parliamentary budget session in Dodoma for the 2018/19 financial year beginning next July 1.

Among a ‘bazillion’ other things, the auditor ruefully notes that – although the governmentgarnered 94 per cent of the targeted revenue collections –it nonetheless disbursed only 51 per cent of the Sh11.8 trillion budgeted for development expenditure in FY-2016/17!

This is preposterous – coming as it does when the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), has seen to its monthlyrevenue collections jump from Sh800 billion to more than a trillion shillings under the President John Magufuli Presidency (November 5, 2015—). This is one of the ‘bad’ aspects in the performance stakes as revealed by CAG... And there’re more of those! In seeking to explain away the ‘unbalanced equation,’ the minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango, stated that the government spends Sh550 billion out of the monthly revenue collections “on the wage bill – and between Sh600-and-900 billion to service the government debt!

What is the point of having CAG in place, pray?

Then Dr Mpango said “the most important thing I want to tell Tanzanians is that all government revenue is spent accountably!” Really…? Then what’s the point of having a government controller-cum-auditor-general in place, pray?

Anyway, the point here’s that only Sh4.9 trillion out of the Sh11.8 trillion budgeted for development expenditure in FY-2016/17 would have come from domestic revenue collections – with the rest (Sh6.9 trillion) coming in the forms of aid/grants from donors/development partners, as well as concessional loans from both domestic and external financial markets. Incidentally, Auditor Assad revealed the shortcomings described herein above when speaking to mass media reporters in Dodoma on Wednesday, April 11.

Ditto for Finance Minister Mpango who also spoke to reporters on Thursday, April 12, flanked by four of his ministerial Cabinet colleagues…

Perhaps as part of the ongoing melodrama, the minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for Regional Administration& Local Government, Mr SelemaniJafo, revealed at an April 12 press conference that some 434 local government employees have faced disciplinary action since last November for assorted breaches involving public resources. Fair enough...

But, the ugly part is that government officials saw it fit to merrily ‘go public’ on such serious issues, where journalists – apart from desultorily asking ‘newsy’ questions here and there – cannot nail the officials to the Cross for any wrongdoing by themselves or ‘their’ government!

Besides, the CAG report was tabled in Parliament – and it’s in Parliament that it can be torn to shreds if need be… But, better still: that’s where our legislators can make building blocks out of the report for better governance and sustainable development.