By FRANK SENGE KOLMA
THE Department of National Planning and Monitoring’s role in managing the development budget this year to reach K3.4 billion, is under serious question.
Public accounts watchdogs, the Auditor-General and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, in their separate reports to Parliament have reported serious discrepancies and mishandling of this important public fund.
The PAC has gone further to recommend that the responsibility of managing the development fund be taken away from Planning and vest it in a separate agency.
Both watchdog organisations have also recommended that the department be overhauled and restructured.
As much as 70% of annual development budgets had been under-spent by the Department of National Planning and Monitoring according to the PAC.
In its 2006 report to Parliament, the PAC said: “Development and services are not delivered and money that is allocated is generally without control or oversight and does not result in co-ordinated or controlled development for our people.
“This is a significant national failure that needs to be urgently addressed.
“Both the Department of National Planning and Monitoring and the Office of Rural Development have deteriorated to the point where their performance in managing public monies is, at best, marginal.
“Both have profound problems in management, accountability, transparency, competence and ability to perform their functions.
“They are incapable of competently and lawfully managing even their own departmental budget.
“Both are unable to manage, implement, control, co-ordinate, oversee, monitor, account for, audit or apply public monies in the form of development budgets, programmes or projects to any acceptable standard of competence.”
The PAC reported incompetence and inability among staff, compounded by “poor morale, corruption and almost total loss of command and control”.
These failures over many years appear to have resulted in huge wastage of public monies appropriated to development programmes and projects to the detriment of our citizens.
The situation is so bad that the Auditor-General cannot ascertain whether hundreds of contracts funded under development programmes or grants over many years had begun, are proceeding, have stopped, been terminated, been reallocated, been lawfully tendered or allocated, been completed or even exist in fact.
In 2006, at the time the PAC report, the development budget was K488.478 million.
The Auditor-General, inquiring into the 2007 accounts of the DNP&M concluded: “The results of the testing of the development expenditure, indicated that the department cannot be sure that the grants for projects align with their corporate/funding objectives, and that programme outcomes are achieved.
“The AG found problems across most programmes affecting the fair and equitable selection of grants, such as instance of no procedures for assessing applications, no assessment guidelines for advisory committees, no clear rationale for assessments and poor documentation of the reasons for the decisions made.”
The 2007 development budget was K550 million.
The development budget allocation increased to K1.385 billion in 2008 and to K2.5 billion last year.
This year the Development Budget forecast reached K3.393 billion.
The Auditor-General reported that some of the key projects/programmes had no status reports.
It further reported that in most instances, Members of Parliament continued to influence the outcomes of programmes.
Again, there were the of instances of missing vouchers, payments to incorrect votes, payments made to project budgets which were not related or aligned with the project objectives.
As an example, K4 million from the Law and Justice Sector Programme was paid in four separate lots to Kutubu Landowner groups.