Archive: Defence oversight still weak in Mozambique

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Defence oversight is still weak in Mozambique, a study on military budgets in Africa has found.

FEATURE-AU-DEFENCE-MOZ by Leon Engelbrecht
   ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia May 1 2005 Sapa
   DEFENCE OVERSIGHT ‘STILL WEAK’ IN MOZAMBIQUE
   Defence oversight is still weak in Mozambique, a study on military budgets in Africa has found.
   “Parliamentary oversight of the budget is weak, as (armed forces) personnel are, in general, members of one or other of the two main political parties,” the case study, released in Addis Ababa, found.
   The basic nature of defence planning and budgeting in Mozambique also predisposed parliament to “symbolic, elementary oversight of the military sector,” a conference held to discuss the study at the African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital was told.
   The study was conducted by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), the African Security Dialogue and Research institute of Ghana and Ethiopia’s InterAfrica Group (IAG).
   “The lack of parliamentary oversight is also connected to the lack of technical knowledge and expertise on the part of members of the defence portfolio committee,” the study added.
   “Even parliament recognizes that accountability and transparency in military establishments are a long-term project requiring allocation of funds for capacity building. Yet, it is amazing that the same parliament fails to acknowledge, let alone discuss dealing with, its own institutional limitations”.
   The study found other faults with the Mozambican system.
   Prudent public finance management requires policy to precede strategic planning. Budgeting is the physical manifestation of the plan.
   Mozambique has a defence policy, but this needs review. It lacks a strategic plan.
   “The defence policy of 1997 urgently requires a review in order for it to meet current exigencies. The need for a review was harshly brought home to government during the floods of 2000 and 2001 when, despite the huge patriotic and professional zeal of the (military) in undertaking search-and-rescue operations, they were severely handicapped by the lack of operational readiness and capacity for such a role.
   “In addition, although it has a defence policy, the country lacks a strategic defence plan which would allow for medium to long-term planning for the armed forces.
   “Yet, given the (donor-imposed) spending limit (on defence spending), the government needs to prioritize and make long-term plans more than ever, so that the needs of the forces can be spread over several annual budgets.”
   Another concern is the appearance of non-military expenditure in the military budget estimate.
   This is partly owing to the improved political and security environment, which has increasingly disposed the military to humanitarian search-and-rescue operations and the rehabilitation of some economic infrastructure, as demonstrated in the aftermath of the floods of 2000 and 2001.
   “The decision by each country on whether to have a particular military institution is not just a matter of convenience but is mainly the outcome of a number of perceptions influenced by history, the security environment, geopolitical position, and strategic, economic and political factors.
   “However, in a country such as Mozambique, where the government’s priority is fighting absolute poverty, amortizing public debt and laying the foundation for sustainable economic growth, the existence of the military and the associated military expenditure is sometimes seen to be antithetical to broader socio-economic goals.
   “This viewpoint is often backed by donors, expressed in the stringent conditions that accompany development assistance packages. The huge foreign aid component of Mozambique’s national budget leaves it suscep-tible to this tendency.
   “Not surprisingly, the absence of a strategic military plan only serves to confirm this tendency,” the report said.
   But the study also found much that was good:
   “Over the past decade there have been some improvements in the availability to the public of budget information. There has also been a conscious effort to build a framework for accountability and greater transparency in the use of public resources and the delivery of public goods.”
   Also, an understanding has progressively developed that military issues are not restricted to military personnel and politicians but belong on the national agenda.
   Sapa
   /le/np