The government of The Gambia has received green light from the National Assembly to take an estimated whooping sum of D219, 800, 000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund more than 100% the amount Parliament approved last year.
The National Assembly of The Gambia endorsed the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2011, which gives the government the authority to take the additional amount from the Consolidated Fund for the period 1st January 2011 to 31st December 2011, to finance some of its projects and activities.
Even though D5.65 billion was the estimated amount budgeted as the government expenditure, to finance all its projects and activities for the whole of 2011; the Finance Minister said during the year certain un-anticipated expenditure came up that had to be met with urgency, hence the need for supplementary fund.
It’s a normal phenomenon in The Gambia that the year on year the government will go to the National Assembly seeking approval to take an additional fund from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the lawmakers, who always rubber-stamp any proposal from the government, never hesitate to give their consent to the government to take any amount they need from the revenue fund. In 2009 and 2010 the government has taken more than D300,000,000 (three hundred million dalasis) and D100,000,000 (one hundred million dalasis), respectively, on the approval of the country’s Parliamentarians.
The Consolidated Revenue Fund is the term used for the main bank account of the government. This is the account into which must be paid all fees, taxes and revenues of the government, whatever their source.
The 2011 Bill was tabled before the country’s Lawmakers by the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Hon. Mambury Njie, during the 3rd meeting of the National Assembly in the 2011 Legislative Year.
The D219, 800, 000.00 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be allocated as follows: Office of The President, D33, 000, 000; Office of the Electoral Commission, D20, 000,000; Ministry of Defence, D25, 000, 000; Ministry of Interior, D19, 000, 000; Ministry of Foreign of Affairs, D5, 000, 000; Ministry of Finance, D17, 500, 000; Miscellaneous, D40, 000, 000; Ministry of Works, Construction and Infrastructure, D31, 000, 000; Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, D20, 800, 000; Ministry of Youths and Sports, D3, 000, 000; and Ministry of Economic Planning, D5, 000, 000.
The Finance Minister told the Lawmakers that the Supplementary Appropriation bill is designed to cater for the budgeted expenditure for the rest of the year 2011.
He said even thought the 2011 budget was forecast within the framework to curtail government expenditure in order to stem the tide in the growth of the domestic debt, during the year certain un-anticipated expenditure came up that had to be met with urgency.
This includes cost incurred to evacuate Gambians in conflict zones, cost in the procurement of election materials for the IEC, spending on sporting infrastructure and activities of the national football team. Furthermore, he said, expenditure on the debt services turned out to be higher than projected.
Hon. Sidia Jatta, Member for Wuli West said the country cannot necessarily be in control of exogenous factors which impact on the economy but “we should be capable of being in control of our endogenous factors; one of which is financial discipline”.
Sidia observed that the Minister in his presentation indicated that certain budget lines were cut drastically and it is the same budget lines that are in demand of monies that were cut. He asked whether realistically they do not think there is the need to be more realistic in the budgeting. He said the government cut and eventually come back and paste that same thing that was cut before.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said, adding: “I think we should think realistically and do budgeting according to our means. This is what I mean by being in control of our endogenous factors. Unless we do that we are only going to make sing songs about financial discipline. But already what is happening here is only going to aggravate what has already being indicated in the budget speech and that is debt. This is going to aggravate the budget deficit. Anyway this is just food for thought.”
The opposition parliamentarian said the Ministry of Finance knew that both presidential election and the voter registration that has taken place were to come and should have been budgeted for without recourse to a Supplementary Appropriation Bill.
He said: “My concern fundamentally is we should have a new approach to budgeting because this supplementary appropriating is not very helpful because we are already in a financial net and we are making it tighter by some of these expenses that are coming in.”
Sellu Bah, National Assembly Member for Basse, told his colleagues that they must be very honest and sincere with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs who he said are ensuring that services that are provided for the government of the Gambia are being paid for.
“We are all witnesses to the serious economic charges in the world and Gambia is no exception, as Gambia is not an island of the rest,” he said.
He further reiterated that Gambia is a tax base country and is not endowed with natural resources so as to be able to meet our own obligations.
He pointed out that when they were appropriating the 2011 budget, they were not anticipating that there would be increase in the prices of food commodities. He suggested that the country should adopt a system where our national budget would provide an equivalent of 10% of its 6 billion budget for contingency to cater for such unforeseen situation.