Culture of supplementary budgets should come to an end: PILDAT

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Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad—While Federal Budget 2016-2017 was presented in the National Assembly on June 03, 2016. Hours later, Finance Minister, Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar sought the Parliament’s post-facto approval for a Rs. 261 billion ‘supplementary budget’ to cover governmental expenditure overruns in the outgoing fiscal year which was almost 28pc higher than the figure approved last year.
Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development & Transparency (PILDAT) has demanded of the government to avoid such practice. “Parliament must create the necessary political consensus to amend the Constitution rather than just taking away the powers of excess and supplementary grants from Federal and provincial governments,” said a handout of the PILDAT released to media here on Wednesday. The Parliament should also make it incumbent upon each government to seek ‘prior’ approval in case any extra expenditure is required, the handout says. The definitions of excess and supplementary grants must also be revised to be stringent and precise in scope, it further says.
In the handout, it is also mentioned that every year, while each Federal Government must seek Parliamentary consent on Federal Budget before any spending, the Government receives the assent for a huge amount of money but returns next year to the National Assembly to ask for an additional spent amount for its post-effect approval. This practice should be discouraged, says the PILDAT press release.
“Consider that the Assembly passes the budget each year that prescribes limits and purpose. The additional budget and re-appropriation can change the prescribed limit and purpose. Prior approval of the Assembly is therefore, not required and hence the sanctity of the original budget passed by the Assembly is lost,” the handout further says. The priorities of a nation are reflected in its policies and strategies. The national budget, representing the government’s fiscal, financial and economic objectives, serves as the most important policy document of a county. The national budget, therefore, is the single most important manifest of governmental priorities. “Power over purse strings” or the “power of the purse” is an incontestable democratic fundamental, says PILDAT press statement. This essentially means that there is an essential obligation on elected representatives of the people in an Assembly to ensure that all revenue and spending measures they authorize, legally and constitutionally, are fiscally sound, match the needs and aspirations of the population with equity, and that they are being implemented appropriately and efficiently.
It further symbolizes that it is “we the people” who make and implement the budget for themselves.
Pakistan’s current budgetary process has traditionally attracted little input from parliamentarians, political parties or wider civil society. The budget process has, in consequence, become solely the domain of the government, leaving little scope for analysis or accountability, the statement concludes.

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