21 November 2012

Zambia: Chikwanda Clarifies Rounding-Off Figures in Budget

FINANCE Minister Alexander Chikwanda, has said rounding-off figures in the proposed 2013 national Budget is not a new principle as it has been applied in the past.

Mr Chikwanda said the rounding-off of figures was a common practice for financial recording purposes world-wide which should not hold back approval of the Budget.

Last week, MPs argued during debate on estimates of revenue and expenditure for the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Ministry that there were some errors on decimalised figures, prompting Speaker of the National Assembly, Patrick Matibini, to order Mr Chikwanda to issue a ministerial statement on the matter.

But Mr Chikwanda explained in his ministerial statement yesterday in Parliament that it was not the first time the rounding-off method was used as the same principle had been applied in all budgets approved by the House between 2004 and 2012.

"Therefore, all ngwee figures in Yellow Books have always been rounded-off to the nearest Kwacha since 2004, when the first Activity-Based Budgeting (ABB) format Yellow Book was presented to this House," he said.

The minister laid on the table, extracts of similarly rounded-off figures from the budgets of the last eight years and the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Yellow Books which were debated and approved by the House.

"Mr Chairman, in view of the fore-going and in the interests of progress, I have proposed necessary amendments on all areas of the 2013 Budget, yet to be debated, that are affected by the rounding-off principle, " he said.

The minister has since assured the House that the use of the rounding-off principle would not alter the total 2013 national Budget at all.

The minister reiterated that the figures in the Budget database were captured up to the level of ngwee.

He, however said the ABB was first introduced in 2003, and Government consulted with the legislature through the Committee on Estimates, regarding the format for presenting the Yellow Book to the National Assembly.

Mr Chikwanda told the House that the Committee on Estimates approved the ABB format for the Yellow Book which included the rounding-off of the ngwee figures to the nearest Kwacha.

In going forward on rebasing of the Kwacha, Mr Chikwanda said the Treasury would be going for consultation with members of the House on the format of the future Yellow Books which was likely to be presented in the House with ngwee figures.

"I hope that the honourable members will rise to the occasion and provide the necessary guidance on an appropriate format that will not cause any misunderstanding amongst ourselves in the House," Mr Chikwanda said.

He said members should move forward to address various intractable problems that were common afflictions of the long suffering people.

He said page 143 of the 2011 Yellow Book under Home Affairs Ministry on the programme total for programme 02-General Administration, was rounded-off.

This was also the case on page 131 of the 2010 Yellow Book under Ministry of Energy and Water Development and on page 457 of the 2009 Yellow Book under the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, among others.

He said the extracts also included rounded-off figures under the ministries of Agriculture and Local Government and Housing during the years when MMD Vubwi MP, Eustackio Kazonga who had 30 years experience as a statistician, was the minister responsible.

Mr Chikwanda said Dr Kazonga fervently presented and defended such budget figures on the floor of the House although today, he could not but opted to understand the well-established mathematical principles on rounding-off of decimalised figures.

Meanwhile, the Re-Domination of Currency Bill has passed the Committee Stage in the House without any amendments and would go through Third Reading today

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