By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
After the Gambia’s National Assembly (NA) approved a total expenditure of D24 Billion Dalasis for 2020, only D20 Billion was spent by the end of the year according to the 2020 End of Year Expenditure Brief from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA).
By the end of 2019 Gambian Parliamentarians had approved D21 Billion only. However, by August 2020 a “Supplementary Appropriation Bill (SAB) of D2.845 billion” had been “appropriated by the National Assembly” as detailed in the MoFEA’s 2020 Expenditure Brief.
Oddly enough, even though MoFEA’s received an additional Supplementary of D2.8 Billion the Government underspent by D4.5 Billion last year. This raises questions over the need for a SAB given the initial Approved Expenditure of D21 Billion was not exceeded last year.
Speaking to a former Finance Minister Hon. Abdou Kolley, he explains that “at the time of making the request for Supplementary Appropriation no one could have predicted government would underspend its budget, even though expenditure tightening was expected, so the SAB is justified.”
Ministry of Health Overspends by D497 Billion
The impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic is reflected in the huge overspend from the Ministry of Health by a whopping D497 Million. A look at the individual Budget Lines shows that the Ministry of Health overspent by almost half a Billion Dalasis (D497 Million).
In August 2020 the National Assembly approved an additional supplementary of D250 Million to the Ministry of Health’s Budget (D1.5 Billion) to combat the Coronavirus Pandemic. The 2020 Expenditure Brief indicates that the Ministry of Health spent D2.3 Billion instead of the Approved Revised Budget of D1.8 Billion. This represents an overspend of 128%.
Speaking on the overspend in Health, Hon Kolley explains that “even with the SAB which increased health and other budget lines, some of these are still over overspend, which could not have been addressed through virement, further justifying the SAB”.
However, it can be recalled that National Assembly members had requested for the Finance Minister, Hon Mambury Njie to consider a Revised Budget entirely, perhaps this would have avoided the need for a SAB. Hon Abdou Kolley disagrees that this would have addressed the problem given that it would have been difficult to envisage at the time.
In actual Dalasis, Centralized Services was the second highest overspent, with over D2.5 Billion spent instead of D2.3 Billion. However, in percentage terms only the Ministry of Health ranks higher than the Ministry of Communications which overspent by 114% followed by Centralised Services with 109%. The chart below summarises the top 5 Overspend Budget lines which includes Ministry of Finance (104%) and Ministry of Interior (102%).
IEC & NAO Spend less than %50 of Approved Budget
On the other end of the scale are Budget Lines which underspent the most, led by Debt Service where a whopping D3.7 Billion was saved. Although the Government planned to repay almost D9 Billion in 2020 only D4.2 Billion of debt was paid in 2020. Debt Service actually ranks as 5th underspend in terms of percentage underspend.
Raising questions on the Governments underspend in Debt Service Hon Kolley asks “what explains this huge savings (debt deferral, debt cancellation, overbudgeting, or payment default/ missed deadlines)?”
From the chart below two Budget Lines spent less than half of their Approved Budget last year namely the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the National Audit Office. Perhaps more concerning is the low expenditure by the Ministry of Agriculture during a Pandemic period which saw increases in the cost of food and transportation. It would have been prudent to commit more investment in Agriculture to alleviate some of the negative impacts of the Pandemic on the country’s Food Security. As they say a hungry man is an angry man.
The “5 Lowest Underspent Budget Lines” concludes with the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change which are both joint 3rd and 4th (51%).