Salary & Staffing Details – As readers here may recall, this blog highlighted to the public back in 2014 the historic removal of the salary and staffing information from the national budget referred to as Personal Emoluments. This critical accountability plank of the Budget tells Parliament and the public how many people are employed in each category of the Service in Ministries and Departments, how much they are being paid and what their job titles and scales are. The documents show the changes year to year in the employment numbers as well as salaries, etc. Once this information was stripped, it was no longer possible for the Parliament or the public to account for the number of hires and what they were being paid. Back when I raised this matter, the former Prime Minister later responded, claiming that removing the documents that enabled the Parliament and public to track how our money is being used in this critical area, made the Budget “more modern”.
Debt Details – Each Ministry and Department’s allocations in the Budget are laid out in what is called a Head. As I previously highlighted, when VAT was introduced, the former government stripped the Budget of Heads 26 and 27 of the Budget – the Debt Heads. Once those Heads were removed, we could no longer see the list of loans we have outstanding, who the loans are taken out with, the amounts owed, and the details of public debt redemption.
Line Items – Within each Head, each category of expenditure is broken out into Line Items. Those items are gathered into sub-categories referred to as Blocks. Again, these lines provide details into how a grand total of monies is to be spent.
To demonstrate its commitment to accountability in the Budget process, the new administration should return to the Budget all accountability documents and documentation that were removed. It is actually not too late to produce the Personal Emoluments for each Head; they can still be produced now. Given the concerns about the size of the Civil Service and the large numbers of hires before the General Election, this information is critical for Parliament and the public.
What should also be returned is Heads for the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA), UB (formerly COB) and BTVI. Heads that should be introduced should be the NHI Authority and the Department of Urban Renewal. The Operations of the Ministry of Tourism should also be given its own Block so that we can see how the $50.9 million allocated this year for those Operations is to be spent.