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MPs up in arms over P1.1bn supplementary budget

MBONGENI MGUNI
Thapelo Matsheka. PIC KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Finance Minister, Thapelo Matsheka on Wednesday afternoon submitted a P1.1 billion supplementary budget needed to cover public service and armed forces wage increases awarded earlier this year, sparking heated debates across the floor on the matter.

Moving the motion, finance and economic development minister, Thapelo Matsheka said the required funds were unforeseen as government took the decision to award salary increases after the budget process for the 2019/20 financial year.

He said the required funds would be drawn from the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services’ development budget, as it had been affected by slow expenditure during the year.

“The proposed reallocation will not have any adverse effect on the annual budgets of the projects concerned nor on their total estimated cost,” he said. “I note the concern over diverting funds allocated to development projects to finance the recurrent budget.

“However, I would like to indicate that options such as the one exercised to finance the shortfalls are an exception, rather than the rule.

“My ministry is committed to the imperative of using investment spending to grow the economy, however in the current year it was determined that the Lands Ministry would not fully use their approved budget for the year.

“It was considered prudent to reallocate the unspent budget balances rather than seek additional funds that were bound to increase the projected fiscal deficit.”

Besides civil servants and armed forces salary increases, the supplementary budget will also cover increases already made for old age pensions, destitute and disability allowances as well as village development committee allowances which were increased by P50 per beneficiary per month.

The bulk of the supplementary budget, P757.4 million will retrospectively cover salary increases for the Botswana Defence Force, Botswana Police Service and Prisons and Rehabilitation.

Matsheka’s proposed supplementary budget sparked tense debates in Parliament, with opposition legislators accusing the ruling party of reckless public finance management.

“I sympathise with the minister because he has walked into the office and found a P1 billion supplementary budget on the table,” said Leader of the Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando.

“How do you take

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P1 billion from investment and put it in consumption? It is also not correct to say most or any of those items were unforeseen.

“They knew that there must be adjustment of salaries and provision must be made. A government that cannot foresee the magnitude of salary increases or the need to adjust old age pension is a blind government which cannot see beyond its own feet.

“Part of the problem is the famous Ntlole. You acted irresponsibly because you wanted a quick political catch from the military services.”

“We all know that this supplementary is on account of buying elections.”

However, Local Government and Rural Development minister, Eric Molale, whose portfolio requires an additional P260 million from the supplementary budget, said the opposition was playing to the gallery on the issue. “We had a thorough investigation done into the salaries and conditions of public servants and the results came out after the budget process, but the opposition say we are to blame.

“The opposition are the ones who went campaigning around the PEMANDU report. They were saying they will pay people P3,000 as a minimum wage when they did not even know where the money would come from.

“This government is not like that; it does not run on a thumbsuck. “Again, there’s nothing wrong with taking from the development and giving to the recurrent.

“We know that the programme of procurement under the development budget would take much longer than the three months left in the financial year. The pre-tender processes for procurement have been done, but those projects will be funded in the next financial year.”

The 2019/20 fiscal year is expected to incur a P7.8 billion deficit, with no impact from the supplementary as it is being financed by reallocations. Government has said it is committed to returning to fiscal stability by 2023.



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