Concerns Over Election Derailing of Basics Services Program

The government of Ethiopia has raised concerns over the possibility that the Provision of Basic Services (PBS) program may be derailed. This is based on the concern that it could be politically hijacked following the coming of the general election that is due at the end of May next year.

Present at the end of the four day 10th PBS Joint Review and Implementation Support (JRIS) mission and Joint Budget and Aid Review (JBAR), held at the Ghion Hotel in Kirkos District, from May 12-15, 2014, Abraham Tekeste, PhD, State Minister for Finance and Economic Development, told those present at the event that his government is worried that the program, which is showing apprehensible results, may be used by certain people to settle a score with the government. He deterred from mentioning who.

“The government of Ethiopia would like the program to be judged by its own merits and continue as it is, rather than going back to the direct budget support program,” Abraham told Fortune.

The state minister was referring to the situation before the controversial 2005 election, which saw the government lose its privilege of accessing finance directly from most disgruntled donors, as a result of a reported loss of trust between the government and the donor agencies following the electoral debacle. A large part of the 3.5 billion dollars in annual aid to Ethiopia comes in the form of protection of basic services (PBS), which simply implies that donors give as much money as in the past, but with policy tools and instruments to account for each penny – although the accountability component may not have flawlessly worked as they had first intended.

The protection of basic services (PBS) program has been identified as a hotspot of both accounting and procurement malpractices in recent reports of the Auditor General. A total of 270 accounts under the PBS were found to be problematic by the office of the auditor in 2013, compared to 48 for mainstream governmental accounts.

The PBS program was designed in accordance with the World Bank’s World Development Report (WDR 2004) – making services work for poor people. The PBS was started in 2006 and is now in its third phase, which will be finalised after three years.

The PBS finances service delivery in the five basic sectors through supporting frontline service providers and improving the accountability mechanisms around the delivery of basic services for the poor.

The current phase of the PBS, which runs from 2013-2018, is estimated to cost 6.3 billion dollars – split 50-50 between the government and development partners. This makes it the largest donor supported program in the world.

The country director for the World Bank, one of the donors of the project, Guang Zhe Chen, expects the project to extend even beyond 2018. And when it comes to measuring the significance and result of the program, he believes it should be gauged by the findings of similar reviews.

“Since the results are encouraging, the program has a big probability to continue in the future,” Guang told Fortune.

The total national budget and expenditure on the education sector has reached a little over 33 billion dollars, claiming a quarter of the national budget. The Net Primary enrolment rate for 5-8 grades is currently 47.3pc. During the review meeting, the experience of the Amhara region in the education sector was seen. According to the presentation at the event, the region was able to increase primary enrolment from 3,989,549n, in 201213, to 4,111,903, in 201314, thanks to the program.

The PBS III has set 19.2qls as the target for the average productivity of major food crops a hectare, but the result was 17.8qls. The PBS program is especially focused on the provision of education, health, water and agricultural services. This has contributed a lot to the country’s effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS), which are expected to be achieved by 2015, according to the state minister. The program spends around 10 billion Birr a year

The review noted that revenue collection at the general government level increased by 21pc in nominal terms compared to last year and also showed an improved performance against the annual budget, which increased from 48pc of the budget last year to 50pc this year. Whereas domestic revenue collection is expected to remain flat next year, it is expected to reach around 12pc in half a decade. The contribution of external finance to the budget has decreased this year, reaching 18pc of the government’s expenditure, declining from 21pc last year.

Source : Addis Fortune

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