MPs put Ngor to task over budget lapses

MPs put Ngor to task over budget lapses
Minister of Planning Dior Tong Ngor.

The lawmakers at the national parliament have accused the national ministry of finance and planning of overlooking budgetary lapses that were detected after reviewing the 2022-2023 fiscal expenditure.

The gaps were highlighted in the budget appropriation bill, 2022–2023 report Thursday. The report was presented to the Transitional National Legislature by the chairperson of the specialized committee of legislation and legal affairs, Dengtiel Kuur, during an extraordinary sitting on the reports of the budget review.

According to the report, some government spending agencies got more than their appropriated budgets at the expense of the other institutions which are deprived of their share.

In the session, the committee expressed serious concerns about the continuous underfunding of the audit chamber.

“It is the ministry of finance which gives itself the discretion to give more or less,” noted the lawmakers in the report.

The Members of the RTNLA also noted that some government agencies refuse to cooperate with the National Revenue Authority (NRA) and have recommended that the legislature hold such agencies to account.

Borrowing plan

The legislators alleged that the ministry of finance continues to borrow money without the authority of the national legislature. It noted that no reports on loans nor do quarterly, bi-annual reports on budget expenditure according to sections 32(2), 35, 37, 48 of the Public Financial Management and Accountability Act, 2011, section 9 of the appropriation, Act, 2019/20 and Art. 84 of the constitution is given to the legislature for review.

“This fiscal year has been the worst as there have been inconclusive outturns. The committee is concerned by the year-after-year delay of the annual budget presentation, which should be in May. It was recommended in the Appropriation Act, 2016 (1), 2017 (18), to establish the office of the controller of budget to solve the problem of “budget indiscipline.”

“The Appropriation Act, 2019/2020” recommended that a cabinet minister be appointed and assigned to report on behalf of or represent commissions so that commissions’ budgets be protected, the legislators stated.

Also, the committee of finance and economic planning that oversaw the budget review process recommended that the ministry of finance establishes a Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority and submit a quarterly report on budget execution to the National Legislature.

“The committee recommends the MoFP to adhere with Public Financial Management and Accountability Act to avoid issues of overspending and malpractices, debts management and financial records and to implement the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act.”

The minister of finance and planning, Dior Tong Ngor, acknowledged that there is lack of reports from the ministry of finance on budget expenditure as raised by the National Legislature. He also noted that devolving budget execution to spending agencies to manage their own budgets will address budget indiscipline.

He noted: “There are issues related to the lack of reporting that do not come before the parliament, I cannot defend that it is a fact, and the fact is that there are some agencies that overspend their budgets, and other agencies also do not receive any portion of their budget. “It is also there and a fact.”

“There is a new insertion in the law which says that if two consecutive quarterly reports are not presented to the National Legislature, that will trigger the impeachment,’’ he said as he warned his juniors they risked dismissal if they fail to comply. 

The committee’s focus was built on the financial performance reports and the prospects for meeting the challenges South Sudan’s economy is undergoing, such as the SSP 560 billion deficit. It based its analysis on the four chapters in the budget. They include wages and salaries, the cost of goods and services, capital expenditures, and intergovernmental fiscal transfers. This is according Changkouth Bichiock, chairperson of a specialised committee of finance and economic planning.

The fiscal year 2022–23 budget analyses are also an attempt to understand sources of income and whether such income was collected efficiently and deposited to the Treasury in a transparent and accountable manner, he added.

In this budget, the sources of income were categorized into four categories: oil revenue (SSP 715, 771, 575, and 941 billion), tax revenue (SSP 117, 035, 359, and 737 billion), foreign grants, loans, and borrowing.