By Bampia Bundu
The Education Task Force on 20 Percent Allocation and Utilization has concluded country wide trainings for Local Councils, Education Caucuses and District Budget Oversight Committees.
The Task Force comprises Education for All Coalition (EFA), Action Aid International Sierra Leone, Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), Community Action to Restore Lives (CARL), and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED).
The project was funded by UNICEF with Actionaid Sierra Leone leading the process. The various training sessions were done simultaneously in Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Makeni bringing stakeholders together.
The objectives of the training were to influence the Government National Budgeting Allocation with a view of maintaining 20 percent allocation to the education sector 2013; to influence the medium term expenditure framework process in the budget allocation for the 2013 fiscal year; and to to monitor the disbursement and efficient utilization of education resources, create public awareness and participation on the needs for investment in the education sector.
Making his presentation at the British Council in Freetown, the Education Priject officer of Action Aid International Sierra Leone, Mr. Jonathan Siaffa, said a budget is a statement of expected income and expenditure of a household or government within a specific period of time while a financial statement is one that contains expenditure, revenue and deficit or surplus estimates which indicates how a household, organizations or government plans to use its expected resources to meet its goals for a given period.
He also stated that budgets are documents, descriptions, explanations and statements of preference as they express the objectives and aspirations of a Government in power while that Government actually has the money to spend.
He also explained a budget also outlines plans for spending money, explains how it intends spending money that belongs to the public and that no government in the world has infinite public resources at its disposal. At the same time, there is a boundless array of needs to be met through public expenditure.
Mr. Siaffa further stated that the budget always incorporates tradeoffs between different spending priorities and includes value judgment about which services and interests are priorotised.
The budget, he stressed, is therefore an important political instrument by which Government raises and allocates the financial resources of the state. Accountability in this direction, he stated is very important and it is the obligation of the Legislature and Executive to explain and justify their decision towards the implementation of the responsibilities conferred on them by the electorate.
He also explained that fiscal accountability refers to the responsibility of Government to account to Parliament on how public funds are collected, managed and spent. He disclosed that Sierra Leone is operating the medium term expenditure framework budget process which involves a three-year revenue and expenditure plan of national government, with each year’s projections for the first year voted while the two other years are retained as a basis for future planning.
He said this kind of budget is referred to as the ‘Rolling Budget’ and it also integrates fiscal policy and budgeting over the medium-term by linking a system of aggregate fiscal forecasting to a process of maintaining medium-term budget projections by Ministries reflecting existing government policies.
It also provides a skeleton for meeting policy objectives within which annual spending decisions can be made, he narrated; adding that it also provides a useful way of checking that spending decision of each department made now will help to realize overall long-term goals.
In his comments, the BAN Coordinator, Mr. Abu Bakkar Kamara, said that a budget helps us decide how when and on what to spend our money. It helps individuals, communities, households and Government to decide how and from where they get their money and also helps individuals, households, communities and government to plan on how to satisfy their needs. It enables us to see how different groups benefit or are disadvantaged from the way resources are distributed or allocated and its gives people information on how Government plans to spend money on goods and services.
It also shows how Government uses public money to influence and control the world (private sector) the business and the lives of the people. A good budget, he opined, should be accountable, have access to institutions, goods and services and it should be adequate and accurate. It should also be comprehensive, efficient, equitable, flexible, fiscal measure, plan, participatory, priority, sensitive, transparency and should be time bound, he said.
Participants discussed a wide range of issues on the budget especially that dealing with Local Council budget. The trainings were climaxed with the development of monitoring tools for civil society groups for the monitoring of 20 percent budget allocation to the education sector.