EDSA BUDGET 2019 STOOD DOWN
By Amadu Wurie Barrie
Following the 2019 Financial Budget hearing at the Kingtom Bank Complex, the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) budget has being stood down on Friday 14th September 2018. Where other institutions are presenting well organized budgets in handouts and substantially detailed documents, EDSA management managed to present a single page of their 2019 budget. Owing to the fact that the EDSA budget is one of the most anticipated presentations, with many awaiting questions regarding the quality of their service delivery as compared to the cost of the services, the hall was extremely disappointed. The civil society organisations (CSOs), Community representative and Non-State Actors (NSAs) expressed dissatisfaction about the document calling on the Ministry of Finance to stand down the budget.
The Principal Deputy Financial Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Mathew Dingie said allowing EDSA management to present would be very biased and unfair of him as chairman of the presentations. He said EDSA, just as other State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) have been given the same instructions, but have only presented a single page of their 2019 budget, which is too scanty for the understanding of the public.
In addressing the concern that EDSA is new to the process, Mr. Dingie said it is the first time all SOEs are going through the process, but others have prepared very good documentations and have made beautiful presentations. He said, they were all instructed via letters what they were supposed to do and about a month ago and were expected to seek further clarifications with the Ministry on the details. He noted that the new General Manager of the Sierra Leone Ports Authority, who have only spent barely 72hours in office, have presented a very good budget inter alia, adding that their excuse is but invalid. He furthered that EDSA is expected to go back to the drawing board, prepared their budget well and get back to the ministry of Finance on Monday. He continued to say that if EDSA fail to do their presentation within the timeline of the Budget hearing, the EDSA management will have to cover the cost of a separate hearing of their budget.
He said things have been going well since the opening on Wednesday with policy hearings and budget hearings from various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s), with the newly included State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). He explained that the SOEs have been included because the new Public Financial Management Act gives powers to the Minister of Finance to supervise and oversee the functions of SOEs in order to ensure effective and efficient management and services. He said these institutions have been invited to discuss their budgets for 2019, looking at their past and present financial performances to determine the reality of their 2019 financial projections.
In responding to concerns of civil society organization representatives and Non State Actors with regards to the closed door budget hearing of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and the Rokel Commercial Bank, Mr. Dingie said this is done owing to the nature of their operations. He said other SOEs have distinct operational mandates as opposed to banks which are competing with each other. According to him, they need privacy in discussing their plans, policies and strategies to protect their business, with consideration of other competing private banks. He assured the public that the outcome of the activities and the budget that the Ministry of Finance will present in October will disclose the expected outcomes of all of these SOEs, including the banks.
In responding to the question of which institution have presented a more satisfactory and discouraging budget, Mr. Dingie said the primary objective of the exercise is not to rank them, but to make sure they disclose as much information as possible with regards their challenges, their modes of operation, plans etc. He also added that the exercise will guide their activities and make sure that they deliver what is expected by the Ministry and the general public, which would help them generate dividend for the government.