Namibia was ranked fourth in the Southern Africa region, after South Africa, Malawi and Botswana in the 2015 Open Budget Survey said Minister of Finance, Honorable Calle Schlettwein on Wednesday this week.
Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Open Budget Index (OBI) Schlettwein attributed the drop in rankings to changes to the OBI methodology, especially the weighting for certain budget practices and that the 2015 OBI covers what was on the ground in the 2014/15 financial year and not what was put in place for the 2015/16 financial year.
Namibia’s rankings fell two places from 2012 where Namibia was placed second after South Africa. It was also noted that Namibia fell from third to ninth position in sub-Saharan Africa. “The drop in ranking does certainly denote a deterioration in Namibia’s budgetary practices, but as the presenters indicated, countries such as Malawi, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana and Mali may have made faster progress in reforming their budget practices than Namibia,” said Schlettwein.
He however said the ministry is not distressed or disappointed by the 2015 OBI rankings since they know that their continuous public finance management reforms are steadily moving Namibia in the right direction.
The minister highlighted the ‘Citizens Guide to the National Budget which was published earlier this year in six indigenous languages to explain in simple terms how government collects money from what sources and how the money is spent and the reduction of the volume of budgetary documents tabled in Parliament by consolidating the Macro-economic Framework and the Fiscal Policy Framework into a single document entitled the Fiscal Strategy as some of the milestones achieved by the ministry.
Schlettwein stressed that in order to successfully implement proper budget reforms, it is necessary to institutionalize the annual Budget Calendar by clearly outlining deliverables, tasks, deadlines and responsibilities, which in turn should be captured in the Budget Circular. Government’s Fiscal Strategy.
He said the Budget Calendar should be designed in such a way that the Fiscal Strategy, Mid-Year Review and Pre-budget Statement are tabled and considered in October of each year to give way to the tabling of the Appropriation Bill, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and other accompanying documents during February each fiscal year”
Other significant public finance management reforms in preparation are legal reforms and ICT advancements. According to Schlettwein, the current State Finance Act of 1991 is essentially a rules-based piece of legislation and is doing well in explaining the “dos and don’ts” in public finance and that the words “economy”, “policy”, “development” or “growth” do not appear anywhere in the Act.
“Although the statute has served us well for two-and-a-half decades, there is a need to replace it with a contemporary and policy-oriented piece of public finance management act. We are making steady progress to revamp this law. This also presents us with a suitable opportunity to enshrine the current and envisaged budgetary practices into law,” he said.
In addition the ministry is also looking to improving the utilization and control functionalities of Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) to ensure that the Information System implemented as a tool is optimally set up and utilized to ensure that the accounting process produces reliable, accurate and timely financial information. The financial reporting reforms have also commenced with the development of a codified set of Government Accounting Standards. The ministry through consultations with the Office of the Auditor General has revised and enhanced the accounting framework which is planned to be adopted by the Government of Namibia as the basis of Accounting.