Swaziland budget comes under fire

8 March 2011
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8 March 2011 | Lindsay Clark

A leading African think tank has slammed Swaziland’s recent budget for a lack of control and accuracy in spending data.

Swaziland, which borders Mozambique and South Africa, is struggling with a dramatic fall in revenue from the Southern African Customs Union, which collects and shares import duty between South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland.

This source of funding, which makes more than half the nation’s revenue, fell by 62 per cent last year. As a result, the government has proposed cuts in public spending.

Thembinkosi Dlamini, analyst with independent think tank Idasa, criticised the government for making cuts based on poor financial data. “There is no sense that there is a credible system of cashflow management that can anticipate revenue inflows with greater precision,” he said.

He said in an opinion paper that the government needed to ensure a “more systematic expenditure management system is in place to ensure that critical operations like hospitals, schools and emergency care services are always fully functional”.

He went on to criticise a lack of detail and context in government spending data. “Swaziland must be one of very few countries in sub-Saharan Africa that presents a budget with only figures and no narrative explanation of the policy priorities for each spending unit. There are no performance indicators or reporting on performance against indicators, or even any appreciation of the challenges and key assumptions.”

The result, he said, was that the government had no measure of value for money. “The monitoring and evaluation function is more input driven and lacks reflection on the outcomes and results.”

Meanwhile, United Nations resident coordinator for Swaziland, Musinga Bandora, praised the budget, which promises massive cuts in public spending. “The wide-ranging measures elaborated, those of restoring fiscal sustainability and promoting growth, of reducing and redirecting expenditure, of curtailing waste and fighting corruption, promoting efficiencies as well as boosting internal revenue collection are laudable,” he said.

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