By Gary Hatigeva
THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has on Monday started its proceedings into the 2018 Appropriation Bill 2018 with so much at stake as a lot of government ministries and agencies already indicating urgent needs to have their projected allocations approved.
The government had proposed under its supplementary budget for an addition of around $220 million to further fund government’s operations toward the end of this year.
PAC began its public hearing schedule on Monday with the Central Bank of Solomon Islands who presented its general overview of the national economy, with details from the state of the economy in 2018, and the Economic outlook for 2018 and the prospects for 2019.
The Ministry of Finance and Treasury was next with a strong delegation who presented a breakdown on the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, arguing that it is an urgent matter for PAC’s thorough consideration as the government continues delivering its services.
In a breakdown of the total of $226 Million under the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2018, Under Secretary (US) Fiscal of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Norman Hiropuhi, explained that $1.3 Million is projected for contingency warrant, while $23 million for advance warrant.
Hiropuhi added that the remaining three quarter or more of the Supplementary, with a total of $200.1 Million has been projected for additional supplementary expenditures of various government services, and should allow for continued delivery until December 31, 2018.
Interestingly, with a new approach, the government went and seek parliament’s consent and had it put in for it first and second reading last week, and then put in for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC’s) scrutiny, which is currently underway.
The government was however cautioned that the estimate of the budgeted expenditure this year has now grown from around 42 percent of GDP (in the 2018 Appropriation Act) to 44 percent of GDP when including the 2018 SAB.
Deputy Governor of Central Bank, Gane Simbe pointed out that this would be at approximately the same expenditure level witnessed in 2017.
“We note government under this SAB has to reallocate funds to address unforeseen circumstances, legalise budgetary support allocations from donors and meet key priority areas (such as the elections and tourism).
“Nonetheless, it would also be prudent if government could minimise arrears from previous periods into a new spending year as it will likely crowd out activities and investments,” Deputy Governor Simbe explained.
He said it is noted that the 2018 Supplementary Appropriation Bill has more arrears from 2017 in addition to the ones already cleared in the 2018 Appropriation Act.
Moreover, he suggested that some of the claims are for fixed-type costs such as rental and salaries that could have been appropriately budgeted and expended in their respective year.
Following PAC’s scrutiny into it, the Supplementary Appropriation Bill will be brought back into parliament when parliament resumes next week for its debates and Committee of Supplies for its proceedings.
PAC continues this morning with the Ministry of Home of Affairs expected to appear before the committee, but before that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade is likely to take the lead, and to be followed by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, and then the Ministry of Rural Development before lunch.
Today’s second half of the session is expected to see strong teams from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, and the Ministry of Communication and Aviation.
Parliament will resume in a few day’s time, and the report on the hearings is expected to be presented in Parliament before the Bill is being passed, but this will depend very much on the commitment of government ministries, some of which were called back due to unpreparedness and others, due to other factors.
PAC according to the Hearing Schedule, is expected to complete this Wednesday but could go on until Thursday or Friday.