Schlettwein welcomes Open Budget Survey 2017 with reservations

While finance Minister Calle Schlettwein has come out to say he will not entirely shoot down the latest Open Budget Survey findings, he however disputes the finding that there is no provision for opportunities for the public to engage in the budget process.

The survey has ranked Namibia at position 50 globally, the same score it held in 2015.

Namibia’s score is partly affected by the change in the definition of “publicly available documents” which from the OBS 2017’s point of view recognises online published documents on relevant government body’s official websites as available to the public.

Namibia has been inconsistent in which budget documents are made publicly available in a given year, it has come out.

The minister has however said, “You have the publication of the mid-year-expenditure framework, you have the publication of the estimates of revenue and expenditure, you have the publication of the mid-year budget review. And we believe that also the audit report, it’s done and it’s on the website.”

Yet findings are such that Namibia has failed to publish the Citizens Budget online in a timely manner as well as failure to produce the Audit Report.

“Of course there could be time issues, but these budget documents are placed on the website,” the minister insisted.

Failure to produce a pre-budget statement and publishing In-Year Reports that only contain scant budget information and not providing information to do with expenditure by classification or revenue by category or source has also found the country wanting.

Namibia has been advised to prioritise piloting of mechanisms for members of the public and executive branch officials to exchange views on national budget matters.

“The government and the ministry of finance in particular value the principles of transparency, the principle of consultation and accountability. The budget is an instrument of fiscal policy, we believe that consultation and the input of every Namibian counts in the formulation of the budget.”

“That’s why we seek consultation, we seek public outreach and we believe that the amount of information put forth is sufficient to have the views of Namibians,” said the minister in response.

However, he said that the Open Budget Survey results stand as a basis to foster innovation to further fortify strength, redress weaknesses and leverage on reform opportunities.

While the outcome does not reflect a poor record, it points to specific areas of doing things differently and keeping abreast with innovation and reform in the public finance management arena, said the minister.

“Wed do not entirely dismiss some of the findings, we believe that being rated and to be seen as among other peers is important for us to benchmark ourselves and improve.”

“We also believe that we do quite a lot and perhaps what we do visa vis standards set out do not come into the perspective of the survey. We take this is a constructive opinion,” he said.

Nevertheless, the minister has advised that when assessing the results of the survey in the domestic context, it is important to objectively give regard to the measures and processes put in place locally to enhance the values of transparency and participation.

Findings are that Namibia’s legislature provides weak oversight during the budget cycle, from planning to implementation.

However, the supreme audit institution has been acknowledged for providing adequate budget oversight.