ZIMBABWE – The third week of November holds two important annual events in Zimbabwe; the coming of the rains, and the presentation of the National Budget. As farmers prepare for the planting season, the government prepares its spending plans for the new fiscal year.
November 26, 2015 was unusual because the rains were late, foreshadowing the return of the dreaded El Niño weather cycle. Farmers throughout the country asked themselves if they –should plant the same crops and purchase the same inputs as they do every year, and worried about the kind of crops they would have.
The Budget Department of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development was also contemplating the answers to two new questions: Do we plan the nation’s public spending traditional way, by looking at the inputs we need for service delivery? Or do we focus more on the outcomes and results the spending is expected to yield?
Since 2012, the Government of Zimbabwe has been working to introduce a new type of budget; one which focuses more on outputs and results rather than inputs. Results-based budgeting (also known as “program budgeting”) is expected to not only increase the value for money in public spending, but also to help ensure national resources are more effectively directed toward the achievement of the national development goals embodied in Zimbabwe’s Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET). Program budgeting will also help the government, parliament and civil society to better monitor and evaluate the efficiency of spending within ministries.
“Results-based budgeting will provide more useful information on service delivery that will allow for transparency and accountability in determining whether allocations reflect priorities, the delivery of services and monitoring the use of resources within each program,” said Johaness Herderschee, World Bank senior economist for Zimbabwe.
With funding from the Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund, (and building on earlier funding from DfiD, USAID’S SERA and AfDB), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has led the pilot preparation of program budgets for three ministries; Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Health and Child Care and Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare. This work involved defining the main spending programs for each ministry, reclassifying past accounts under these new programs, analyzing the unit costs of key outcomes, and preparing a parallel budget for 2016. One such program is the Public Health sub-program on the prevention and control of communicable diseases, for which the Ministry of Health and Child Care will monitor how many cases of epidemic-prone diseases such as measles and influenza are detected within 48 hours and controlled within two weeks. Another program is Education Research Innovation and Development, which includes the registration of Early Childhood Development (ECD) schools.
In the 2016 National Budget submission, the pilot ministries presented two budgets, one in the customary format and one in the new results-based format. To help parliamentarians understand the new budgets, a workshop was held with the key committees to familiarize them with program budgeting and how it will help to strengthen their oversight of national spending.
The ZIMREF Results-based Budgeting Technical Assistance Program ($0.7 million) is supporting the rollout of program budgeting to all the line ministries by 2018, as well as policy and expenditure analysis in the Ministries of Health and Child Care, and of Primary and Secondary Education. Six additional ministries are receiving training and technical assistance for the next budget cycle, and the program will continue to provide support to Parliament and civil society organizations that monitor public spending
Results-based budgeting forms part of broader effort by the Government of Zimbabwe to introduce results-based management across the public services and to improve public financial management in general. The Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund, under its window of Systems Reconstruction and Development, is also supporting the Office of the President and Cabinet to improve monitoring and evaluation with ZIMREF-funded technical assistance ($0.5 million), the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to improved state-owned enterprise governance and public investment planning ($4.2 million), the reform of public procurement ($4.0 million), and the strengthening of the public financial management ($20 million).