The recent announcement by government through Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda of expenditure estimates for 21 regions and 133 districts for the fiscal year 2011/12 provides a dim light at the end of a dark tunnel when it comes to fighting unnecessary expenditures. The presentation shows some reduction in unnecessary spending such as travel expenses, acquisition of new vehicles and so on.
Sikika's analysis of the presentation shows that all unnecessary budget items sum up to about Tsh 30.4 bn, which is about Tsh 7.8 bn, or 20 percent, less in comparison with the last financial year’s budget where those items summed up to Tsh 38.3 bn. This commendable development can mainly be attributed to the cuttings of travel expenses which have been reduced from Tsh 10.9 bn in the 2010/11 to Tsh 8.3 bn year 2011/12, that’s a decrease of 24 percent.
Trainings have also been successfully reduced from Tsh 2.3 bn to Tsh 1.9 bn, implying a decrease of 19 percent. Both expenditures on hospitality supplies and on fuel, oils and lubricants are also cut down by about 20 percent. The allocations for new vehicles drop from Tsh 2.9 bn to Tsh 1.1 bn; this is Tsh 1.8 bn or 63 percent less than the previous year.
Overally, these budgetary reductions across regions are truly remarkable. They show that the government is starting to implement what the Prime Minister proclaimed in 2008 when he announced a refocus to activities that benefit the general populace, particularly in rural areas where the bulk of the Tanzanian population lives, rather than concentrating on ineffective activities like seminars, workshops and the acquisition of expensive vehicles. Moreover, the Minister of Finance reemphasized, on the 8th of June 2011, that “the government will continue with its efforts to control expenditure by suspending procurement of all kinds of vehicles except for special reasons; and with approval of the PM’s office”.
Sikika takes this opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister for adhering to his own and the Minister of Finance’s statements by reducing unnecessary expenditures – in particular regarding the acquisition of new vehicles. But, at the same time, raises the following concerns: 14 out of 21 regions did not budget for vehicles at all calling the sustainability of this financial development into question.
If these regions just postponed the purchasing of vehicles for one year, as the Minister announced, they will budget for those expenditures in the coming financial year. But what matters is not a total elimination of such costs; rather it is to ensure that public funds are spent economically and bring value for money. Thus, we would prefer to have the government purchasing favourable vehicles which ‘do the job’ instead of pricy Land Cruisers and SUVs.
In total, the regions managed to save almost eight billion Tsh by cutting down unnecessary activities. This raises the question where this huge amount is diverted to. Sikika insists on redirecting more money to the health sector whose budget stagnates while all other key sectors are receiving more than in the previous year.
Sikika is also of the view that though considerable progress has been made in as far as fighting unnecessary expenditures is concerned, the government should do more as the figures are still unreasonably high. The government should also desist from lip service and diligently implement all measures meant to reduce unnecessary spending for the benefit of the general public.