Clearing Opposition Confusion On ‘R’

Alot was said about the 2018-2019 National Budget allocations under ‘R’ by the Opposition. They used the money allocated under ‘R’ as an attempt to show that the Attorney-General and
12 Jul 2018 09:40
Clearing Opposition Confusion On ‘R’
Permanent Secretary for Economy Makereta Konrote.

Alot was said about the 2018-2019 National Budget allocations under ‘R’ by the Opposition.

They used the money allocated under ‘R’ as an attempt to show that the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, reportedly controlled more than 46 per cent of the 2018-2019 National Budget.

What they failed to mention in Parliament was that money kept under ‘R’ increased only because the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme (TELS), which happens to be a LOAN, is also catered for under ‘R’.

The Fiji Sun had a Question and Answer session with Permanent Secretary for Economy, Makereta Konrote, to clarify what this elusive ‘R’ was and why it probably has a lot of Opposition Members of Parliament confused.

Q: What is R?

Konrote: The designation ‘R’ denotes that the budget allocation or provision is under ‘Requisition’.

Q:  How much money is allocated under it?

Konrote: For the 2018-2019 financial year, a sum of $2.14 billion or 46 per cent of total expenditure is under ‘R’. One of the reasons funds under R in the 2018-2019 Budget is 46 per cent  is because of the TELS allocation under Head 50 of $205 million, which is about 12 per cent of total  funds placed under ‘R’.

Q: When is money given to respective ministries?

Konrote: While allocations are made in respective ministries’ budgets, there is an assessment process, or what we call RIE (requisition to incur expenditure), that takes place before funds are disbursed.

Q: Why is R held by Economy?

The Opposition says it should be just given to respective ministries.

Konrote: Funds under ‘R’ are allocated across various ministries’ and departments’ budgets.

The RIE process provides an avenue or mechanism for new or large projects and programmes to be tracked and monitored through an assessment and documentation process that ensures funds are spent on the purpose for which it was allocated, and in line with government’s financial and procurement regulations. The ‘R’ has been a feature of every budget and is primarily about robust financial management and best practice.

The Finance Instruction 2010 (Sections 9A and B) were amended in the 2017-2018 Budget to delegate authority to the Permanent Secretary for Economy to approve expenditure under ‘R’ up to $1 million, regardless of the total project or programme allocation. So for example a project could be allocated a total of $50 million under ‘R’, but if disbursements are $1 million or below then the PS for Economy approves the RIE.

Q:   How is the money disbursed? Does the Economy Minister have any say in it?

Konrote: Once a RIE is approved, funds are released to the respective ministries’/departments’ drawings account.

Only RIE applications that are above $1 million are approved by the Minister for Economy.

The accountability of ministries’ budgets is vested with the respective Permanent Secretary or the Head of the respective Budget Sector Agency. This is clearly reflected on page 339 and 340 of the 2018-2019 Budget Estimates.

Editor’s note: The Minister’s approval is only sought if money in access of $1 million needs to be disbursed in one go.

Q: What checks and balances are in place to ensure funds are not mismanaged?

Konrote: In addition to the reasons outlined above, the Ministry of Economy has an in-house checklist which outlines the key items including the documentation, acquittals, government tender board approvals etc that must be verified before approval is granted. Edited by Epineri Vula


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