The International Budget Partnership (IBP) published a report on the open budget survey 2008, which ranked Rwanda among the 25 countries that provide scant or no budget information to the public for the 87 countries surveyed.
The IBP claims to have prepared the report on the basis of results from the open budget questionnaire that was completed by a civil society expert and reviewed by two experts that had the knowledge of the country and its budget system. It is noted that the two experts were independent of both the Government and the research institution (civil society expert).
The Government of Rwanda after carefully examining the report and the completed questionnaire strongly disagrees with the results provided in the questionnaire and accordingly wishes to clarify the following issues about the budget:
1. The report and the questionnaire completely ignore the reality with regard to the availability of budget documents. The budget documents in Rwanda include the following documents:
a. The Budget Call Circular and Strategic Issues Papers: These are internal budget documents and are prepared by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN) and issued to budget agencies to prepare and submit their budget estimates to the MINECOFIN.
b. Budget Framework Paper (BFP): The BFP presents the macroeconomic context for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and describes the macroeconomic and policy assumptions under which the estimate for the total revenues and expenditure ceiling for each year of the MTEF has been prepared. It also presents an analysis of the main policy reforms that are to be funded under the MTEF with information on the estimated costs of these.
The BFP is discussed at the Joint Budget Support Review meeting in August-September of every year and the Civil Society as well as the Private Sector Federation are invited to give their views.
The revised expenditure ceilings are presented in the BFP for Cabinet’s consideration based on the cost of the policy objectives presented in the BFP.
Once approved by Cabinet, the BFP becomes the basis for preparing the detailed State finance law and are both submitted to the Parliament after approval by Cabinet. The BFP and explanatory note to the BFP are all posted on the MINECOFIN website.
c. Budget Statement or Budget Summary. This is a summary of the draft budget and is sometimes called the budget speech that is presented to the Parliament by the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.
This document is distributed to the public at the time of presentation in Parliament and thereafter posted on the internet (MINECOFIN website).
d. Other Budget Documents accompanying the Draft State Finance Law. A number of documents are prepared as per articles 39 and 41 of the law on State finances and property.
These include summaries of expected revenues and expenditures which are not reflected in the budget, consolidated summaries of revenues and expenditures of local administrative entities, country loans and all interests to be paid on those loans, securities seized by the central Government as well as Grants received during the year preceding the budget year and where they came from.
These documents are submitted to the Parliament accompanying the draft finance law are available to the public on request.
e. The finance law or the budget book. This is the enacted budget and is a public document that is both available at the MINECOFIN website: www.minecofin.gov.rw or the website of the Office of the Prime Minister: www.primature.gov.rw.
Hard copies are also available to the public on order and the annual subscription to have a budget book is about USD 1.3 or about RwF 700.
f. The quarterly budget execution reports and end year budget execution report. These reports are required by law and are produced regularly and posted on the MINECOFIN website.
Further, end year budget execution reports are discussed at the Joint Budget Support review meeting that is normally held in April every year and the civil society as well as the Private Sector Federation are present at this meeting.
g. Consolidated Financial Statement and Audit report. The consolidated financial statements were for the first time produced in Rwanda and submitted to the Auditor General in June 2007.
The audit report is prepared by the Auditor General and submitted to the Parliament. The parliamentary committee on budget and finance scrutinize the audit report and is later approved by the Parliament.
The audit report is also posted on the website of the Auditor General at www.oag.gov.rw.
2. The report and the questionnaire further fail to capture correctly the content and the transparency of the policy intentions of the Executive’s Budget Proposal.
The Executive’s Budget Proposal clearly portrays the policy intention of the budget, particularly with regard to the strategic allocation of resources between priority areas.
This demonstrated in its presentation according to all the five classification dimensions namely, functional classification, economic classification, programmatic classification, hierarchical classification and classification by source of funds. The Chart of Accounts is also based on the same classifications, and these are applied to budget execution reports.
Central government resources destined for sub-national governments are allocated in a transparent and rules based manner which facilitates planning for efficient service delivery at a local level.
The amount allocated to every district for each programme are well reflected in the budget book and discussed at different levels during the budget process.
3. The budget process of Rwanda has not been accurately reported and the information provided in the questionnaire is misleading.
An MTEF approach to planning and budgeting was introduced in 2000 and has been under development since that time.
The annual budget has been incorporated as an integral component of the MTEF and represents the culmination of the MTEF process each year.
Under the MTEF, the planning and budget preparation process has become a year-round activity with participation from all central Government budget agencies and with an MTEF process at district government level integrated with that at central Government level.
The process begins early in the year with the preparation of a macro-fiscal framework. This results in a fiscal table for the following three years with indicative resources available for recurrent and development expenditure disaggregated by major economic item.
A Budget Call Circular (BCC) is issued in May which describes roles and responsibilities over the remainder of the year for budget preparation.
The BCC also presents a revised budget calendar for the year; detailed instructions on the planning process; detailed instructions for the preparation and presentation of proposed resource allocations for the coming three years; background to the derivation of preliminary expenditure ceilings and initial expenditure ceilings within which proposed resource allocations are to be presented.
The expenditure ceilings comprise the top-down aspect of the MTEF and budget formulation processes. Budget agencies are required to prepare Strategic Issues Papers (SIPs) which are meant to describe the budget agency’s intended use of funds over the coming three years and which should also incorporate an expenditure framework by programme and sub-programme within the constraints of the ceilings issued to them.
The work underlying the SIPs comprises the bottom-up component of the MTEF and budget preparation processes. Sector consultations follow in June between MINECOFIN and budget agencies on their SIPs and MTEFs which provide information to modify budget agencies’ SIPs and MTEFs and information for modification of expenditure ceilings for Cabinet approval.
A Budget Framework Paper (BFP) is prepared in June based on sufficient information from the SIPs, sector consultations and latest (end-June) macro-fiscal performance.
Revised expenditure ceilings are presented in the BFP for Cabinet’s consideration based on the cost of the policy objectives presented in the BFP.
Once Cabinet approves the ceilings (in July or August according to the budget calendar), these are communicated to budget agencies for finalisation of their submissions.
The final ceilings to line ministries indicate the level of conditional grants to districts. The draft finance law is prepared and presented to Cabinet in September and this is presented to the Parliament, along with the BFP and an Explanatory Note for the budget in October.
The draft finance law is analyzed by the budget and finance committee in the Parliament and the approved budget is normally published before December 31, of every year.
Along the process from the discussion of the Macroeconomic framework and end-year budget execution in April of every year up to the approval of the budget by the parliament in December of every year, the public is involved at different stages and represented differently.
At districts level, the public is represented through the Joint Action Forum (JAF) when undertaking joint district reviews. At the Central Government level, the reports from Joint Sector reviews are published on sector Ministries websites but the findings are also discussed during the Joint Budget Support R review meeting held in April of every year.
During the discussion of the BFP in July-August of every year, the public participates through the civil society and private sector federation representatives. During the parliamentary scrutiny of the budget, the civil society and the private sector participate effectively in the review.
As described in the above paragraphs, the contents of the report and the questionnaire on Rwanda are largely inaccurate and if the foregoing information is considered, the ranking provided changes significantly.