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Civil society, journalists ‘scrutinise’ Budget Bureau

February 15, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi

Journalists and civil society activists last Friday examined the roles and responsibilities of the Budget Bureau, a department within the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. The unit is responsible for the preparation and monitoring of the national budget in collaboration with other line agencies.

Over the years, journalists and civil society activists have raised concerns that the department has been exclusively working with only line ministries without engaging members of the public for their inputs into the budget preparation processes, so as to foster transparency and accountability within the system.

The engagement last Friday of journalists and CSO members was therefore part of an ongoing strategy by the ministry to ensure members of the public better understand the operations of the unit.

National Coordinator of Budget Advocacy Network, Abu Bakarr Kamara, said it was important that such a forum has been created by the Finance Ministry where activists can interact with ministry officers, especially as a lot of concerns were being raised by citizens as to how budget preparation processes were being carried out.

He said his organisation has been monitoring budgetary supports to health, educational and infrastructure, among others, noting that there were seeming discrepancies in reporting on budget allocations to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“We need to have synchronized figures from this department,” said Mr. Kamara. “The ministry also needs to engage stakeholders and members of the public on citizen budget issues because all of these measures will help to strengthen transparency issues.”

A local journalist Mohamed Kamara observed that first quarter allocations were not made to MDAs in time; a development he said affects the effective implementation of certain projects within those institutions.

“With our interaction today, I am sure the ministry will look into all of these issues raised for possible consideration,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the Development Secretary in the ministry, John Sumailah, conceded that there were challenges but that some members of the public have also misunderstood their roles in society.

He said a lot of reformation has taken place over the years as there was a special ministry for finance and another for development, though both institutions had been fused together to operate under a single entity.

“We do provide technical advice to the Minister of Finance, the Financial Secretary and other ministries,” explained Mr. Sumailah. “We also connect with Parliament on budgetary issues. We always emphasise on transparency and accountability in doing our work.”

Senior Budget Officer, Abu Bakarr Conteh, said the Bureau interfaces with various units, especially with the Accountant General’s office in processing payment requests from ministries made directly to the Financial Secretary.

“The Bureau also provides regulations for the monitoring of budget committees and other international audit departments to ensure the personal involvement of the vote controller, the professional head, programme managers, and provincial and district managers,” he said.

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