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Somaliland Budget: Fiscal Year 2007
A budget is an estimate or plan of how much money will be spent over a period of time in relation to the amount of money available. It is a process tailored on historical information, trends, industry conditions and the economy. The budget of the preceding year is an important document as well as the abstract account showing the actual in order to compare your figures. The revenue and most likely income are first identified before any expenditure estimates is even considered. There is a direct relationship between projected revenues and the expenses that will be incurred. Preparing the revenue side of the equation will make clear the extent of development programs and services that can be rendered in that fiscal year.
Working from the government plan expenditure estimates are prepared by each ministry or institutions to the ministry of finance. The ministry of finance then works and compiles the budget evaluating it on the basis of cost versus benefit. In these process cutbacks in certain areas is warranted. The draft is commonly discussed with the ministries one at a time. The final draft text agreed upon is then finally sent for print. Then the budget prepared in a book form is then sent to parliament by the executive branch of the government represented by the finance minister together with a comprehensive report explaining the economic position of the country. Any major changes or trends that warranted change in the budget is not only informed to the parliament but they must understand why these changes are made.
Every year at this time a row starts between the parliament and the executive branch of the government. It is evident that the line of communication is strained between the executive and the parliament. It is the fiduciary responsibility of the finance minister to guide both the executive and the parliament on all financial matters ensuring that the parliament is not embarrassed or placed in difficult situations. He must be able to read the politics of the legislative body and discuss the implications of any significant changes in the budget cordially and provide recommendations for action. He should always respect the parliament and ensure that personal conflicts do not interfere with the overall well being of the country. When respect between and among the minister of finance and the parliament is mutual, honest and open communication will result opening the door for an agreement at the end.
He should keep the parliament informed of all information related to the budget so that there are no surprises. The parliament has a financial committee who take responsibility to work closely with the ministry of finance. Every cooperation is required to be provided avoiding any thing that may cause confrontation. The honorable minister of finance always fire a blurred and politically motivated address which pave the way that the relations to soar. He should not assume that the way things were done one year ago is the way it will always work. Expecting the budget to be passed on face value is not an honest approach. The executive branch of the government represented by the finance minister should be able to adapt to any circumstances that may arise and provide leadership guidance. It is not a good idea to address the parliament polemically in order to avoid any pitfalls that can happen. The parliament is not a place for emotional appeals. It is best to present the facts in neutral manner acknowledging opposing views and reply any questions asked in brief and straight forward answer. It is the approach of the minister of finance that always creates tension between the parliament and the president.
On the other side of the coin, managing the affairs of the parliament within the law and the various jurisdictions is not tricky or difficult. The law actually provides help in the every day conduct of the parliament activities. The management of the parliament should be familiar with principles and provisions of the law that governs every issue. This will help provide means to avoid and keep them out of trouble. The activities of the parliament sometimes involve interaction or opposing views about an issue, in this respect they must be equipped with the knowledge necessary to defend their position.
Amplifying the media with contradicting signals without even referring exactly the provisions of the law that support the statement is not the right approach. The issue need only to be discussed, debated between the parliament and the minister of finance avoiding any tensions. The law covering the issue is the right answer and if there is any confusion in the meaning a legal counsel is required to assist in the interpretation of the law.
Do not attempt to dine with reporters unless the issue is compelling. The audience may be skeptical, and the news media may assume adversarial postures in some instances. The rewards for adept actions are as great as the penalties for ill conceived ones.
The parliament totally overlooked the important areas of the budget. They completely forgot to check the revenue side of the budget, taking the figures of last year as a guide line. It is incumbent on the minister of finance to explain to the parliament if certain subheads got short of the figures originally budgeted. There are certain revenues that are not totally recovered from the public. The port authority of Berbera, Total company fuel depots and the deposits [currar] raised last year is not even mentioned by the parliament this year. Adjusting the budget between ministries is as working in a vacuum and the great responsibility regarding the budget of this year is not addressed. It is high time to account all monies properly and in accordance with the accounting procedures of the country.
On the expenditure side the parliament did not even look whether the government spending was according to the budget allocations. If the revenue figures are more than the budgeted allocations the supplementary budget authorizing the government to spend this money is not verified as well. The most important is to check where the budget has been spent and whether the regions received their share. This can verified from the accountant general’s office. In this respect the parliament should receive the abstract account of last year and check against the accounts of the six regions. It is difficult to know every detail of the budget when presented in book form. It is essential to establish a track record early on and appoint a technical committee who can check the accounts of the previous year and report to the parliament before the budget is presented for approval. The present adjustments of the expenditure made by the parliament are a trivial thing and are short of what the people expected from the parliament.
The parliament should maintain professional and ethical standards in conducting their activities. Confidentiality is also required and discipline within the parliament. When the parliament members leave the meeting and inform the public that they have voted against the motion, the people loose confidence in the parliament’s ability to lead. Although there may be disagreements with the parliament members, every body has a responsibility to maintain confidentiality of the discussion and support the outcome whether or not they agreed with it. Both the executive and the parliament are required to review the constitution carefully and obtain clarification on any points they do not understand or do not agree with the assistance of legal counsel.
It is the responsibility of the executive branch of the government to provide leadership guidance and establish, maintain effective communications with all other government institutions to avoid any cursed nuisance in future. They have to rely on intuition, inter personal relations in deciding how to proceed in particular circumstances.
On the other hand it is true that the parliament is an independent legislative body, however caution is warranted. With each degree of independence an equal degree of responsibility is assumed. When both the executive and the parliament branches of the government fail, work cannot be accomplished and expectations are shattered frustrating the people. The volatile situation we are in requires endurance and cooperation so that we can pass the many challenges ahead.