Open Letter to the President: Recall the National Draft Budget

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Madam President:

In the wake of your declaration of a State of Emergency, there cannot be a more opportune/appropriate time to take bold steps aimed at addressing a few pertinent issues of NATIONAL IMPORTANCE/CONCERN; in order to reduce the rate of our deteriorating economic and financial retrogression. These matters center on the National Draft Budget, the Ebola Economic earthquake and Compensation of Employees (Readjustment of Remuneration of Employees, Officials and Hires/Contractors for just rationalization in all governmental institutions).

As you may be aware, Your Excellency, the EBOLA pandemic necessitates a review of our priorities, recalculation of revenue projections, redirection of scarce resources and design and implementation of an emergency economic plan. Also, a scrupulous monitoring of expenditure to ensure disbursement of funds for essential expenditures is now critical. Additionally, the public outcry about discrepancies in remuneration and benefits of personnel in government is an issue long overdue to be addressed. There cannot be a better time to address this.

In light of the above, please find below, respectfully, an outline of suggested actions to be taken by you:

  1. Recall the National Budget ASAP
  1. Appoint a Joint Public-Private Sector Economic and Financial Management Team of capable and credible individuals to craft, manage and monitor an Emergency Financial and Economic Management Plan.
  2. Reprioritize programs and allocations – For example, Healthcare now becomes our number one priority, instead of infrastructure or education, with an appropriate percentage of allocable resources provided. All other priorities are to follow suite. If the Budget Department had the capacity, I would recommend the ideal Zero Based Budget approach.
  3. Continue spending utilizing the 1/12 policy guided by a well-crafted expenditure plan to avoid a budget shortfall.    
  4. Realign resources –Understaffed institutions could benefit from personnel shifting in concert with priorities and needs. An appropriate template could be designed and implemented. Allocations should be shifted from non-productive/essential areas to areas of need.
  5. Address other Budget anomalies in the National Budget Formulation to ensure compliance with the Public Financial Management Act, statutes and best practice. The prescribed format of the budget as stipulated in the PFM Act, the conditions and methodology for Legislative alteration of the budget, and link to the Medium Term Expenditure Framework/new proposed plan. The National Legislature should adopt best practice of utilizing its budget office (The LBO) to provide the framework for discussion and debate of the Budget.
  1. Address imbalances in remuneration of officials, contractors, employees and other hires in both the Civil Service and non-Civil Service/State Owned Enterprises.
  1. Derive a methodology and corresponding matrix by which salaries and benefits of all public servants (Public Corporation officials and boards included) are compensated. For example, there should be a set of criteria established based on which remuneration are determined. The present salary/allowance scheme seems to have lost a rationale.

Thanks for your timely attention to this matter which will contribute to peace, stability and prosperity; however minimal.

About the writer: Ruel Dempster is a former Senior Financial/Economic Analyst – Office of the President – (Senior Executive Service -SES), Former Senior Economist of the Department of Budget – Ministry of Finance, former Assistant Minister for Commerce and a tenured civil servant. He can be contacted at [email protected] He has no interest in a political appointment.

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