Stakeholders want overhaul of Tanzania’s budget processes

What you need to know:

  • They said the overhaul should include the enactment of the Citizen Participation Act, the involvement of citizens in the down-top structure, and increasing the number of days used for debating the Finance and Appropriation Bills.

Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian budget stakeholders have called for a complete overhaul of the country’s budget processes to enhance transparency, encourage citizen participation and strengthen oversight by legislatures and supreme audit institutions (SAIs).

They said the overhaul should include the enactment of the Citizen Participation Act, the involvement of citizens in the down-top structure, and increasing the number of days used for debating the Finance and Appropriation Bills.

Stakeholders shared their views last week during the Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2023 presentation, which involved 125 countries globally.

OBS 2023 researched published documents, events, and developments recorded in December 2022, focusing on budget transparency, public participation, and oversight.

The findings of the OBS 2023, jointly hosted by Stanbic Biashara Incubator and HakiElimu, were unveiled during the breakfast event organised by the Policy Forum.

Tabling the findings, Hakielimu head of programmes Godfrey Boniventura said in the area of budget transparency, Tanzania has scored 41/100, placing it the 75th country globally.

He said that in the global average, the country scored 46/100, meaning that Tanzania was below the average ceiling for East African countries.

“In comparison, Kenya has scored 55/100, while Uganda has a 58/100 score. In 2015, Tanzania had a score of 46/100, which fell to a low of 10/100 in 2017,” he said.

“Since then, the trend of the Budget Transparency score has been on an upward increase,” he added, noting however that the budget needs to be discussed extensively.

Regarding the area of public participation, he said Tanzania’s score stood at 13/100, with the global average of 15/100 indicating that this is a global concern.

Furthermore, Mr Boniventure said only Kenya stands out with a score of 31/100, noting that it demonstrates that progress is achievable.

Hakielimu head of programmes Godfrey Boniventura (right) speaks during the tabling of the Open Budget Survey 2023 findings at the breakfast debate organised recently by Policy Forum in Dar es Salaam. With him is the former Member of Parliament and ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe. PHOTO|LOUIS KOLUMBIA

According to him, Tanzania scored 43/100 in the budget oversight involving the process carried out by the legislatures and supreme audit institutions (SAIs).

He said budget transparency scores are significantly used for attracting non-concessional loans and grants and in the systems of credit rating and attracting foreign domestic investment (FDI).

“Investment is about money, which is all concerning collections and expenditures. Therefore, investors need to have assurance that they are going to a country with huge transparency in the tax collection and expenditure systems,” he said.

Speaking during the event, former Member of Parliament and ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe said there is a need to revamp the country’s budget process and instill a bottom-up system for effective and efficient implementation.

He challenged the current system, saying the government was the one designing proposals and tables for Parliament for debate where the government is present, and the same is obliged for implementation.

“In the bigger context, Tanzania should borrow from Kenya by enacting the Budget Participation Act, which will direct the national and sub-national governments to involve citizens in the budget cycle,” he said.

“This is the starting point as we are waiting for the new Constitution process review. We can fight for the enactment of the law to enable increased participation of society in the budget process,” he added.

He said amendments were made to the Regional Administration Act in 1997 to replace the Regional Development Directors (RDDs) with the Regional Administrative Secretaries (RASs), dissolving the regions of the previous powers they had.

“Therefore, meetings that endorse the region’s budgets mainly constitute opinions. That’s why their budgets are endorsed after the approval of the main budget, which falls under the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG),” he said.

Mr Kabwe proposed that the regional administration needs a bigger context when debating the new Constitution, observing that instead of focusing on issues like the structure of the union and presidential powers, Tanzanians should establish how development is inhibited by the regional administration in their respective areas.

“In the bigger picture of the new Constitution debate, we are supposed to include how we manage ourselves at the regional level. For instance, the discussion should establish whether we still need appointed regional commissioners or whether there is a need to move ahead and vote for the governors in particular regions,” he said.

Furthermore, he said there was a need to review the Regional Administration Act by amending all sections related to the budget and providing new provisions that make it mandatory for regional budgets to be passed by citizens before being tabled in the main budget.

He said since the amendments were a legal issue, citizens could give opinions to review the Act for improvements and even make the RCC a legislative tool instead of being the consultative body, therefore providing it powers to legislate regional budgets for required execution.

According to him, Tanzania should ensure that the days used for debating the Finance Bill are increased by publishing the content online for citizens to start debating the content before tabling it in Parliament for passing and later being assented into law by the President.

 “In Tanzania, many people are struggling to debate issues related to budgets, unlike the Finance Act, which is the document that has been enacted annually since the country’s independence,” he said.

“However, the Finance and Appropriation Acts, which are the ones used for budget execution, are the laws that are discussed in Parliament within a shorter period than any other law in the country,” he said.

He said in Kenya, the Finance Bill is publicised two to three months before parliamentary debates for the majority of citizens to understand and commence public debate over the content.

“It is the Finance Act that gives the Minister of Finance powers to collect revenue; therefore, there is a need to engage and hold the government accountable. The biggest challenge for the youth is that we are now proceeding with the civic polls,” he said, mobilising them to contest to make intended changes.

An independent analyst, Mr Buberwa Kaiza, said neither the village nor the neighbourhood level have a budget committee.

“The whole system needs to be overhauled because the budget needs to start at the village or neighbourhood where development activities take place. Both resources and experts should be made available at that level, something that will adequately increase citizens understanding of budget issues,” he said.

A Dar es Salaam resident, Ms Sylvia Sosthenes, said there was a need to strengthen available systems to positively benefit from ongoing technological advancements as well as the use of information and communication technology (ICT).

 “We need to increase the efficiency of the systems, especially in rural Tanzania, even though the government is used to reap where it hasn’t sown and collect where it hasn’t dispersed,” she said.

Sharing the OBS 2023 recommendations, Mr Boniventura said the survey recommends the restoration of prompt online publication of the enacted budget to avoid “D,” which is zero.

“Produce and publish the mid-year and end-year reports online, improve the comprehensiveness of the executive budget proposal, the Ministry of Finance and Planning should establish mechanisms to engage the public during budget formulation and monitor implementation, and the National Assembly should provide space for any member of the public or civil society organisation to testify during its hearings on the budget proposal before approval,” he said.

“The Tanzania National Assembly should provide space for members of the public or civil society organisations to testify during its hearings on the audit report; legislative committees should examine the executive’s budget proposal and make online publication of reports with their analysis; and a legislative committee should examine the in-year budget implementation and publish reports with their findings online.