We are approaching the 2012/13budget session, a time when a close scrutiny of the proposed government budget will be made against implementation of the current one.
The session gets underway when there are serious thoughts on how to improve the management of the budget, characterised by open ended list of priorities against very limited resources.
As one expert pointed out sometime when talking about the Tanzanian economy, everything is a priority. This is so when revenue collections are able to cover just half of the expenditure requirements.
It thus gets very tricky trying to meet the expectations written into such a budget, especially when the donor support of the budget has been going down over the years.
No wonder there are currently serious thoughts at various levels on how to address the revenue-expenditure gap, through proper exploitation of the country’s own resources.
The Controller and Auditor General in his many audit and performance reports covering the public sector has pointed out mismanagement, embezzlement and sheer waste as some of the ills in public expenditure.
CAG for example shows that tax exemptions granted increased from Tshs. 680.7 billion in 2009/2010, to Tshs. trillion 1. 016 in 2010/2011, which was 18% of the actual revenue collection, denying the government critically needed resources.
The CAG report also explains that there were goods paid for but not delivered amounting to 31bn/- and expenditures not properly supported amounting to 8bn-. Further, the report shows salaries paid to retirees, absentees and ineligible officers amounting to 143m/-, questionable payments amounting to 1.5bn/- and increasing trend of allowance payments.
There were also cumulative losses incurred by the Government in terms of public monies, stores written off and abandoned claims that increased by 16% from 11bn/- during the year 2009/2010 to almost 13bn/- in 2010/2011.
It is encouraging that at last he is being heeded and therefore those charged with overseeing use of public resources will be more careful.
It is thanks to the pressure exerted by the parliamentary committees after release of the CAG reports that at last the public sector is now engaged in an exercise of cutting expenditure to release resources to finance other priorities.
There must not be a let up to the pressure in ensuring that whatever public money is channeled to the sector is actually and efficiently spent for the intended purpose.
Another area that needs urgent action is that of expanding the tax base, through more efficient exploitation of the current sources and identifying new ones.
The other day Anne Makinda, Speaker of the National Assembly, called on the government to seriously work on expanding the tax base to ensure that the budget tabled in the Parliament is more realistic in terms of resource availability.
There already a number of suggested areas where improvements in collections are needed, while the new sources should be urgently studied and acted on.
The Parliament as the overseer of government must play its part in demanding action on the two fronts, i.e. tighter control of public expenditure and further action in identifying new areas to boost revenues.
It is a dream to expect the economy to grow to meet the wider public expectations if revenues are not collected efficiently and wastage is allowed to rein.