Is no confidence vote against ministers a solution?
The Wolesi Jirga or Lower House has embarked on the disqualification of ministers who have spent less than 70% of their development budgets. On the first and second day of the motion, the lawmakers dismissed the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Public Works, Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, Education and Transportation after taking a vote of no confidence against them. Eleven more ministers are also among those to be interpellated by the Wolesi Jirga for the budget underspending. They may face similar fate if they also fail to convince the lawmakers for underspending their budgets.
Development budget underspending has long been a major problem in the country. Many ministers of the previous government also could not spend more than 50% of their development budget. The key problem of the less budget utilization lies in its factors. One of these factors is the low capacity of the ministers and their teams; however, there are also other causes which should not be disregarded.
Afghan ministries and independent budgetary units have two types of development budget: discretionary and non-discretionary. Non-discretionary budget leads to the failure of ministers to spend it despite having the essential capacity and plans. Another major problem is the untimely provision of funds by the donors. Furthermore, another thing that added the problems thereof as of the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG) is the National Procurement Commission (NPC).
Although NPC was established to bring in transparency in public contracts, there is a lot of criticism about the nature of its work and decisions. It is said that delay in major public contracts by NPC is the major cause for the underspending of the development budget this year. During their impeachment, the minister also complained about government bureaucracy; however, they don’t have the nerve to specifically name the National Procurement Commission.
The low development budget spending doubtlessly hurts the country, especially in the current critical situation where the unemployment rate is record high. If the development budget is properly spent on development affairs, it can create a lot of jobs in addition to having other economic benefits. Despite all that, the problem of budget underspending cannot be solved by disqualifying the ministers. Instead, attempts should be made to address factors that hinder the expenditure of development budget, one of which is the low capacity of ministers.
Without confronting the other factors of budget underspending, the dismissal of ministers will only further decelerate government affairs because it is not expected that new individuals will be picked soon to replace the unseated ministers given the frictions between NUG leaders.