The Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) is amongst a long list of government entities feeling the pinch of development budget cuts, as the Finance Ministry is proposing that the spies take a P100.8 million hit for the upcoming financial year.
According to draft estimates accompanying the 2020/21 budget seen by Mmegi this week, Finance Minister, Thapelo Matsheka raised his axe across nearly all government ministries and entities, including perceived sacred cows.
Last Monday, Matsheka presented a P12 billion budget for 2020/21 to legislators, representing a drop of about P5 billion from the 2019/20 budget. The reduced spending was made necessary largely by the need to accommodate increases in civil servant and armed forces salaries, amongst others.
The draft estimates, which only become final once legislators pass the budget sometime next month, show that the intelligence agency’s development budget for 2020/21 is proposed to drop from P251.4 million to P150.6 million. The DIS uses the budget for procurement and other enhancement projects.
In 2018/19, the agency enjoyed a development budget hike from P196.6 million to P251.4 million, being a continuation of the protection it usually receives from spending cuts.
The DIS’ recurrent budget for 2020/21, however, rose by nearly eight percent, a number that included higher allocations for salaries, training, travelling expenses and ‘special expenditure’.
Other ‘victims’ of the 2020/21 cuts include a massive 60% or P544 million under the development budget for power generation and distribution, expenditure that is associated with imports of power. With the Botswana Power Corporation’s (BPC) intensive maintenance programme ongoing and leading to higher plant availability, Matsheka was evidently able to reduce this budget.
The estimates also show a proposed P100 million cut in the tariff support for the BPC for 2020/21, again ostensibly based on the utility’s improved financial position.
The BPC Support project was created at the beginning of NDP 11 (and) the purpose was to provide financial support, when the power stations were not generating revenues.
“The financial support has decreased significantly on an annual basis due to improved operations of the plant,” a note accompanying the estimates reads.
Other development budget cuts proposed for 2020/21 include P107 million under agricultural support schemes that include ISPAAD, P87 million under BMC support and P102 million under secondary education.
“The implementation of the secondary education programme that is, refurbishment of education facilities and school expansion, as well as construction of staff houses is ongoing albeit at a slow implementation pace due to capacity constraints, limited availability of materials, poor workmanship and abandoning of sites by contractors,” notes accompanying the estimates read.
In many cases, however, the total estimated budget allocated to certain projects, departments, agencies and ministries under NDP 11 were actually increased, even though the amounts allocated to be spent in 2020/21 were reduced. The increases suggest that these projects, departments, agencies and ministries will benefit from higher development budget allocations in the remaining NDP 11 when revenues allow.
One surprise ‘winner’ in terms of increments under the development budget for 2020/21 was the Department of Broadcasting Services whose budget for “improving broadcasting services” was more than doubled from P40 million to P85.4 million.
Analysts told Mmegi that in many cases, Matsheka and his lieutenants involved in the budget process were able to make cuts for 2020/21 by first prioritising slow spenders, before looking at those projects with lower returns or urgency for the coming financial year.
The Budget Strategy Paper for 2020/21, a blueprint released last October, suggests that the development budget will continue being restrained for the remainder of NDP 11, which ends in March 2023. In the fiscal year 2022/23, the Paper expects the development budget to drop to P10.8 billion, with spending only on high priority projects.