STAKEHOLDERS’ CONFERENCE ON BUDGETARY CONTROL, CORRUPTION AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN AFRICA - Rule of Law Programme Sub-Saharan Africa (Anglophone Countries)
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STAKEHOLDERS’ CONFERENCE ON BUDGETARY CONTROL, CORRUPTION AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN AFRICA AT LAKE VICTORIA SERENA RESORT & SPA ENTEBBE, UGANDA - 22ND TO 25TH JULY 2014
Every year, governments across the African continent prepare their budgetary statements highlighting resource allocations and areas of expenditure that are often geared towards spurring development and improving the welfare of the citizenry. Regrettably, this is not often realised at the end of the financial year and for that reason many States on the continent have remained poor with a large population sagging under the weight of poverty thereby compromising their quality of life. Inevitably, this has led to widespread deprivation of their fundamental rights and freedoms. This is in spite of the rich deposits of natural resources on the continent.
In most countries it has often been the practice that once national budgets are approved by the legislature, which authorises the government to raise revenues, incur debts and effect expenditures the subsequent processes are undertaken away from the public eye and under minimal scrutiny by very weak systems of accountability.
Since the budget determines the origin and application of public financial resources, it plays a central role in the process of government fulfilling economic, political, social, legal and administrative functions which ideally should be for the benefit of the people.
In any given process of budget formulation and execution, unequal power relations may be expressed by inclusion or exclusion or proximity by different social groups to the decision-making process; as well as norms and values explicitly expressed in the statement of purpose and implicitly embedded in the priorities and assumptions contained within the process, structure and content of the budget. Power also plays a significant role in determining who has access to information which guides decision-making . The prevailing balance of interests and pressures in any system of public expenditure management is unlikely to reflect a pro-poor, gender-equitable, orientation in any simple sense. Since resource allocation processes are essentially political, it cannot be assumed that what is in the budgets translates to the reality on the ground because money spent is often massively determined in the process of budget execution under discretion by officials both at the top and bottom of the system hence the need for an effective, strong and independent budgetary control system.
The most important issue in the context of this conference is not the amounts spent, but rather how they are spent; who controls and monitors this expenditure; and how are they held accountable.
Budgetary control is defined by the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants (CIMA) as: "The establishment of budgets relating the responsibilities of executives to the requirements of a policy, and the continuous comparison of actual with budgeted results, either to secure by individual action the objective of that policy, or to provide a basis for its revision". In a nutshell, it refers to the control technique whereby actual results are compared with budgets.
In the context of the State, budgetary control is meant to compel those charged with the responsibility of managing public resources to not only think about the current needs but also the future needs by inter alia, clearly defining areas of responsibility; providing a basis for performance appraisal; enabling remedial action to be taken as variances emerge; and improving the allocation of resources among others.
This ensures prudent management of resources premised upon the principles of transparency, accountability and efficiency and elimination of corruption and wastage. Transparency takes many forms, but in all its forms is founded on a system of budget information that allows for both officials and the public to scrutinise what actually happens to the money. When such information is available, and publicly disseminated, it can act as a catalyst for a culture of greater accountability to develop.
Human rights, social policy and the budget process all intersect on the issue of accountability. The transparency of the systems of budget management is critically important and requires good administrative systems, as well as a commitment to openness. The emphasis on empowering people through information to make claims and ask questions is not just asking for accountability, but also being able to understand what the delivery system is supposed to provide in the various sectors in which they interact and stay.
New ideas of accountability based on values of ‘performance’ and ‘effectiveness’ and a focus on ‘outcomes’ are an important part of the way that the debate about management of public resources for the benefit of the citizens is evolving and Africa cannot afford to be left behind.
Budget monitoring and controls, analysis and advocacy have the potential to provide concrete evidence of government efforts to protect and fulfil human rights. While budget analysis could be often associated with economic and social rights, all human rights are relevant in this regard. Therefore, national budgets have a significant and direct bearing on which human rights are realized and for whom. The possibility to do effective and independent budget monitoring and analysis depends to a large degree on the ability of the people to exercise their civil and political rights in holding their governments to account, including access to budget-related information.
Budgetary control and analysis is a critical tool for monitoring gaps between policies and action, for ensuring the progressive realization of human rights, for advocating alternative policy choices and prioritization, and ultimately for strengthening the accountability of duty-bearers for the fulfilment of their obligations.
Several factors can be identified which are likely to facilitate accountability and entrench a strong budgetary control system. This includes,
•A constitutional framework and political culture oriented to citizenship and rights, and which is strong on effective and dynamic citizen engagement;
•Transparent systems of decision-making about budget allocation, and of budget execution;
•A system of issues-based political competition;
•A clear framework of policy goals, aligned to a vision of society with respect for social justice;
•An active, engaged civil society able to access information, produce analysis and hold government to account; and
•Active, informed citizens able to draw down services, make claims and hold service providers and policy makers to account.
Without effective budgetary control mechanisms in Africa, majority of the citizens on the continent will continually lack basic needs and will fail to realise their self-determination as a result of corruption and waste of the public resources. This will not only affect the current generation but also future generations as they will be expected to use the depleted resources available in future to among other obligations pay back loans which their governments borrowed but never transformed their lives. There has to be a strong case for establishing, protecting or strengthening some clear entitlements to public provision in African countries if the current and future generations are to attain their full potential. These entitlements should be provided on a citizenship basis, should be non-discriminatory in intent, and should endeavour to strengthen the well-being of the poor, vulnerable and marginalised groups.
It is on this basis that the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) under the aegis of its Rule of Law Program for Sub Saharan Africa and the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI) have convened a stakeholders’ conference in Entebbe, Uganda to keenly interrogate the nexus between budgetary control, corruption and human rights from an African perspective with the ultimate objective of contributing towards effective engagement of state and non-state actors in championing for adequate allocation and effective utilization of public resources for the full realisation of human rights for both, the current and future generations.
The conference seeks to inter alia,
•share basic knowledge on the budget process, and related aspects of public expenditure management and public policy;
•review different conceptual approaches for addressing issues of human rights, entitlements, political accountability and citizen participation in relation to the budget process;
•share experiences and draw best practices from the various countries;
•provide guidance for the identification of entry points, methodologies and partners which can help to strengthen voice, accountability and responsiveness to the citizens in policy and budget processes.
The conference is expected to bring together participants from across Africa comprising mainly of government officials from the ministries of finance and planning; budget controllers and auditor generals; anti-corruption agencies; ombudspersons; public protectors; parliamentarians; State and non-state Human Rights Institutions; Civil Society; Academia and the media.
A comparative experience from the German perspective shall be shared by the President of the Budget Control Institution of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany