A proposal to grant the East African Community secretary-general more powers to run the bloc’s budget was rejected last week as officials chose to maintain the status quo.
Ministers in charge of East African Community (EAC) affairs in each of the five partner states disagreed with the push saying that it would be detrimental to the region’s financial management.
“It is therefore recommended that status quo be maintained and that provisions regarding this matter be retained to ensure fiscal discipline and good governance,” noted a report on the council of ministers meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya.
The secretariat had sought greater powers arguing that the community was facing operational hurdles.
Under the current framework, the council of ministers has to approve the smallest of the bloc’s budget. Put otherwise, the council of ministers gives its nod to everything from project and conference costs to air ticket purchases.
The present scenario puts administrators of the regional budget in a bind should inflation rates increase dramatically impacting the costs of goods and services.
Further, partner states sometimes decide to increase delegations to regional conferences by as much as 200 per cent resulting to a spending upswing far beyond the amounts budgeted.
The council of ministers, the body with the powers to re-allocate or supplement the budget, only meets four times per year. This implies that projects within the community are often delayed pending the ministers’ approval.
“Managing a budget at this level with zero flexibility is not practical in the sense that a budget is an estimate prepared on the assumption that there will be no changes in the environment. This means that if there is any change in any of the inputs into an activity, that activity cannot be implemented until the council approves the re-allocation,” noted the secretariat.
Under the trashed proposal, the secretary-general would have received the mandate to reallocate funds for specific activities within a margin of 15 per cent pending retrospective approval by the council of ministers.
EAC had passed a budget of about $35 million with member states contributing equal amounts into the kitty.
During their meeting in Nairobi, the ministers approved a supplementary budget allocation of $235,300 for the deployment of a regional observation team to Kenya’s General Election next year.
The decision by the council of ministers to quash the secretariat’s bid for more say is only the latest among a number of power tussles between various EAC bodies.
Earlier this year, Tanzania had proposed amendments to the treaty for the establishment of the EAC that would ultimately trim the powers of the regional legislative body while increasing the say of national parliaments and the council of ministers with respect to the community’s law-making.