Performance of cabinet ministers and heads of various spending agencies from the Executive Branch of government at the ongoing public hearing on the draft national budget for FY 2018/2019 in the 54th Legislature leaves much to be desire, as some can hardly account for funds entrusted in their care.
The glaring ineptitude came to public notice on Monday, 18 June when the Joint Ways, Means and Finance Committees of the 54th Legislature turned away the Minister of Health Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah and the Registry General of the West African Examination Council or WAEC Mr. Dale Gbotoe for failure to adequately justify current allotments, and requests for increment.
Dr. Jallah struggled but unsuccessfully to defend US$1.8m of the US$58 Million being allotted in the Ministry’s budget for 2018/2019, while WAEC boss Gbotoe failed to explain the US$60.00 charged by the agency to every 12th grader for WASSCE, and how the figure is arrived at and expended. Yet, both officials seek lawmakers’ approval of their respective budgets.
What is even more embarrassing is contradiction in the Health Minister’s account for the US$1.8 Million, which she says will be used to purchase furniture, computers and others for use in health centers in the country, when the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning had earlier informed the joint committee the money is intended for mental health programs throughout the country and to compensate voluntary health workers.
The dismal performance of both officials left members of the Joint Ways, Means, Finance Committee with no alternative but to send them away from the hearing to allow them adequately prepare and come back to defend their allotments.
It is incomprehensible how heads of spending agencies would lack adequate knowledge of allotments in their respective budgets that is placed under their direct supervision for the fiscal period. No wonder why from years to years, funds from the national revenue are allotted for various programs that never see daylight because heads of agencies responsible are unable to exercise supervision and account properly.
This share laziness on the part of senior officials must change. Amid scarce resources and competing needs, if a government ministry or agency formulated a budget, and is fortunate to have same approved by lawmakers, the money should impact lives or go to tangibles.
We had observed during previous budget hearings, particularly from the former administration that ministers and heads of public corporations failed to give performance report on previous expenditure. Yet they come with demands for more money or allotment, while the citizenry wallop in abject poverty and misery.
We call on members of the Joint Committee to continuously scrutinize allotments for various ministries and agencies in order to stamp out waste or priorities that do not impact people’s lives.
A key responsibility of any good leadership is to account for resources placed into its care. One does not necessarily need to be an accountant in order to justify money entrusted in his or her care. All that is required is to be able to work closely with the account department during the budgeting and planning process.