Tanzania’s budget lacks transparency- study

By Kizito Makoye, Dar es salaam – Tanzania’s budget process lacks adequate transparency, leaving citizens in the dark about how tax and donor money are being spent, a new study suggests.

This undated photo depicts situation in a class room in one of the schools in Tanzania

This undated photo depicts situation in a class room in one of the schools in Tanzania

Titled Open Budget Survey (OBS)2010, the study which was commissioned by a renowned Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) tracking governance and accountability Uwezo at  Twaweza last year indicates that the government  has virtually failed to manage public resources  well  and taken little action to respond to audit queries as required by the  country’s Controller and Auditor General( CAG).

According to OBS Tanzania is not doing well in terms of public scrutiny of the budget process as a result a huge chunk of public funds go down the drain. Public scrutiny is an important element of any system of checks and balances.

Governance shortfalls and corruption had forced international donors  to  pull out nearly a quarter of  a million dollars in 2010/11 Tanzania budget.

OBS further reveals that budget documents that are made public by the Ministry of Finance contain limited information; and released late thus reducing  the ability  of Members of Parliament(MPs), citizens and journalists to  scrutinise the numbers .

“This contributes to an environment in which people are  largely left clueless on how tax money and donor  resources  are spent and in which wasteful spending , misalignment of priorities and , at times, outright corruption can thrive unchecked, “the study says

The study suggests some measures which, if adopted, would make the budget more transparent and accessible to the public. It suggests that all budget documents be published in the Ministry of finance’s website in a timely manner. It also suggests that the local government  information website is updated regularly on a timely basis, as well as publishing  calendar of the budget process  showing when  documents will be released to the public and indicating the dates  of events  and opportunities for engagement that are open to the public.

OBS pointed out at the CAG report which, in 2009/10 financial year identified questionable payments among ministries and local  government  authorities  totalling  T.shillings 13.8 billion.

According to this report, government managers have often ignored  audit queries  and recommendations , which CAG considers a “ reflection of lack of seriousness and non commitment on the part of the Accounting Officers and management”

OBS  report recommends  that audit queries  need to be addressed without delay otherwise it would be taken to mean ‘it is acceptable’ to mishandle money within Government  without  sanction.

The report calls upon CAG to make available , on its website , an easy to follow record of the queries made in the last five years , responses received and issues still pending.

The report contends that the government should not offer permanent employment contracts to those in top management  positions and instead offer  renewable contracts whose renewal depend on  satisfactory performance.“ Such a system would allow Government  to weed out non-perfomers  and those not complying with financial  rules  and regulations” the report asserts.

Regarding primary education the study paints an alarming picture of children learning little , of teachers  not showing up at school  and of financial resources not reaching school in accordance with policy.

A learning  assessment  conducted by involving 42,033 children aged 5-15 years , the largest survey of its  kind  ever conducted in the country, found that while the vast majority of Tanzanian children are in school, they actually learn very little. Uwezo tested children on standard two level literacy( English and Kiswahili) and numeracy tests, developed in accordance to Ministry of Education and Vocational Training curriculum requirements. It found that the majority of children in standard  3 are unable to pass the standard 2 test.

This situation, according to the study, suggests that the answer is not more money for  what the government has been doing. Studies worldwide demonstrate also that there is a weak link between increasing schooling inputs and student achievement.

Tanzania  Basic Education statistics  show that the pupil classroom ratio in Tanzania in 2010 is on average 73:1 The pupil-teacher ration stands at 51:1, according to Uwezo study the numbers are averages and hide huge disparities between districts and schools and between classes and within schools.

The study recommends that the government needs to acknowledge that gravity of the learning crisis instead of hiding behind achievements in improving  enrolments .

It further recommends  that the newly elected legislators and donors  to take up  a myriad of  governance challenges currently engulfing the country  as part of their oversight  role on behalf of the citizens.

“We ask the government, legislators  and donors  to reflect upon these challenges and take bold steps to address them” says Rakesh Rajani, Lead researcher.

He further said that “ it is a pity that the government has never stopped telling lies about progress in education sector while the reality on the ground  shows a completely different picture.”

Several studies released last year suggest that the country made progress in some areas. GDP growth was reported to be around 6 percent, infant and child mortality continue to decline, and mosquito nets are being adopted widely. In other areas progress has elude Tanzania’s citizens.

Kizito Makoye is a Tanzanian Journalist based in Dar es Salaam