The role of parliament in the budget making process

By Marial James

Budget making is government’s most important economic policy tool that provides a comprehensive statement of the nation’s priorities. As per now South Sudan has not yet formed the parliament as per the Revitalized Peace Agreement to pass and approve the country’s budget.

In many countries, parliament is the appropriate place to ensure that the Budget best matches the nation’s needs with the available resources. It gives government a chance to communicate its priorities to the public. The remaining part of our country’s budget is not at the ministry’s capacity, but still waiting for the formation of parliament according to the Revitalised Peace Agreement.

Since budget is important for government operations, every year the Ministry of Finance through the minister presents the budget to the national legislative assembly for passage. The budget is done in consultation with all the spending agencies. Spending agencies in this case are the government institutions that implement the budget through various activities and projects.

These institutions prepare their budgets, present them to the national Ministry of Finance and Planning then the ministry compiles the mini-budget to form the wider budget, which is national budget. July every year marks the end of the fiscal year and commences the new one. This year the Ministry of Finance through the minister never presented the budget to parliament that seems to have sparked many rumors on the streets on Juba.

The rumor had it that the country through the finance ministry had failed to produce national budget. Others went as far as saying the country is too broke to have budget. Having those rumors in mind made me to take this opportunity to clarify some rumours based on my knowledge of the Revitalized Peace Agreement clauses. These rumors made it harder for common the citizens to differentiate between the myths and verity. 

To make some clarity on this, let me first and foremost begin on verity surrounding the national budget followed by many concocted myths surrounding the same matter.

As majority might be aware that for the national budget to be passed, it has to be approved by the parliament. According to the Revitalized Peace Agreement article 1.14, there shall be Transitional National Legislative Assembly and Council of States as legislative arm of government charged with legislating roles.

That means before the reconstitution of the parliament in accordance with the above article, the existing parliament before reconstitution is illegitimate to preside over any passage of any bill within the transitional period. The transitional parliament will be reconstitute by the parties to the agreement and up to now it has not yet been reconstituted.

Based on that, there is no any other way the ministry could present the budget to the existing parliament. The parties to the agreement have to form the parliament first for the ministry to present the budget before the legitimate parliament.

If by any chance before the reconstitution of the parliament that the budget is presented, it will be a gross violation of the agreement and might jeopardize the hard won peace. In that I don’t see the reason as to why the Ministry of Finance is being blamed having in mind that it is following the Revitalized Peace Agreement and the instruction from the parties to the agreement.

Many people operate through hearsays and take it upon themselves to conclude that the country doesn’t have budget. Looking at the facts mentioned above, there is no reason as to why the country could not have budget.

If not because our people got used to the cheap propaganda, how do you expect the transitional government to survive without budget. It is not possible and not practical, the government can’t run for months without budget leave alone a year and that is why the President had to issue Republican order extending the budget period for one to allow the necessary arrangements for the reconstitution of the national parliament.

All these rumors had been intentionally concocted to jeopardize peace and tarnish the image of the head of the institution concerned like the minister heading the Ministry of Finance. In the next few days or months we shall see the parties to the agreement put in place the reconstituted parliament. When it is reconstituted, the budget would be the first item the parliament might look into. So let us hold our horses as the parties go through this tedious job of implementing the Revitalized Peace Agreement.

Hence, the public should give chance to the parties to reconstitute the parliament and the budget will be passed as soon as the parliament is in place. The budget in my opinion had been prepared and waiting for the parliament to approve. Looking at many scenarios, effective budget management requires a clear and carefully balanced distribution of resources.

It is an accepted criterion of democracy that parliament holds the powers of the purse, i.e. it must authorize all expenditures, all borrowings, and all revenues to be collected through the power of the country. Governments require parliament’s approval to spend money, as well as to raise revenue in the form of taxes as well as setting out the government’s plans for taxes; budgets also give an overview of the general situation in South Sudan.

The role of Parliament in the budget processes is essential since it is the only institution charged with sole responsibility to approve and pass the budget of the country. The most obvious determinant of amendment power is the actual configuration of powers vested in Parliament. Most parliamentary systems apply restrictions to the powers of the legislature in budgetary matters, often relating to increases in expenditure.

In general, funds for federal government programs must be authorized by an “authorizing committee” through enactment of legislation. Then, through subsequent acts by Congress, budget authority is appropriated by the Appropriations Committee of the House. Therefore, the role of the Finance Minister is to manage the government’s financial assets, propose economic and financial policy, and coordinate and supervise these actions as empowered by law.

Its main duties and functions are to prepare the annual fiscal budget and issue adequate regulations for its execution. The legislature plays an important role in shaping the annual budget and in providing budgetary oversight.

In conclusion, the active engagement of parliament in the budget process is usually considered to be an essential part of democracy. The Country’s budget should provide a clear and comprehensive plan for all public spending. Parliament is the appropriate locus of overall financial accountability. Its role should be to approve future actions rather than blaming the Finance Ministry that minister doesn’t provide the country’s budget, there is no parliament at the moment in our whole country, South Sudan and its null that minister can only pass the budget.

The author can be reached via Email: Nyandiormama@outlook.com

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