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Budget 2007

On Thursday 14 June 2007, the Minister for Finance, Honourable Zakia Meghji, presents the Government’s plans for spending over 5 trillion shillings of public money in for the forthcoming fiscal year.

 

Pre Budget Briefs Launched

After reviewing the Budget Guidelines, Policy Forum's Budget Working Group (BWG) produced four Pre-Budget briefs and launched them to the media and various stakeholders. The briefs present budget information in a simple way and ask key questions such as:

 

This year’s budget may shift resources away from broad-based social services. The Budget Guidelines highlight “the deliberate decision to direct more resources to few strategic programmes which will provide quick wins that will in turn accelerate economic growth in the short to medium term.” Strategic allocation of scarce resources is important. But will focusing on a few key programs mean less money for social services that benefit the wider population?

 

Economic growth is clearly presented as the ultimate goal, and the preferred means of achieving poverty reduction. However, there is an enormous silence in the Budget Guidelines about equity. What mechanisms have been adopted to ensure that all Tanzanians benefit from growth, regardless of their gender, class, rural-urban and district location? Are these backed up by relevant policy strategies and resource allocations?

 

Domestic revenue is expected to increase significantly – from Shs. 2.5 trillion to Shs. 3.0 trillion, contributing 60 percent of total resources. It is unclear exactly how the Government will raise this money. Will it come from higher corporate taxes, stricter regulations on extractive industries like mining, or higher taxes on citizens? Will the head tax be reintroduced?

 

Local government is likely to see more money in 2007/08 as part of an ongoing trend to decentralize. This guidelines show 19% of total Government spending going to the local level – up from 17% last year and 14% two years ago. Recent audit reports and financial reviews show that local governments face challenges managing their money. How will these challenges be addressed to ensure that resources are reaching the targeted programmes and people?

 

Key governance and accountability institutions may get less money in 2007/08. The Judiciary, the National Audit Office, the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance and the Specialised Courts all see considerable reductions from the previous financial year, and even bigger reductions over the past two years, according to the guidelines. Is this consistent with the stated importance of such institutions?

 

Up to Shs 200 billion may be allocated to establish a Constituency Development Fund (CDF), giving Members of Parliament public money to carry out development projects within their constituencies. The idea behind the CDF is to give MPs and citizens more influence on how public money is spent, and to speed up development. These are certainly good objectives, but Kenya’s experience shows that such a fund can have a number of problems. How will the 2007/08 budget address these and other issues? Will information be presented in a transparent way that allows people to follow up and make sure the Government spends public money according to plan?

 

Parliament Budget Session to start on June 12th

On Thursday 14 June 2007, the Minister for Finance, Honourable Zakia Meghji, presents the Government’s plans for spending over 5 trillion shillings of public money in for the forthcoming fiscal year.


www.parliament.go.tz/bunge/docs/BUDGETTIME.pdf

2007 Annual General Meeting: Lessons Learned

The Policy Forum Annual General Meeting was held on the 12th and 13th of April at the White Sands Hotel in Dar es Salaam. Representatives from over 45 member organisations attended, many of whom enjoyed the atmosphere and learned a lot from each other.

 

The first day of the AGM was set aside for three main activities which included a morning debate on the NGO Code of Conduct, a bazaar event and field visits to member organisations during the afternoon.

 

The Code of Conduct debate was intended to furnish participants with a broader understanding of how it should be applied to Civil Society Organisations. It was also an opportunity for those who normally do not attend Breakfast Debates to obtain a grasp of their nature. A draft code of conduct was presented as a tool to help with the discussions. The main comments that emerged were as follows:

1. It was generally taken as a good document and people were pleased with the initiative. However, there were questions about what incentives could be put in place to motivate NGOs to adhere to this code of conduct.

2. Section 1.3 was contentious. It was suggested that it should be rephrased to prevent it from being used as an excuse to limit the rights that are awarded to us under the Constitution. One suggestion was that PF limit it to "We will work in a lawful manner". Others felt that the reference to violence and subversion should be removed but the rest should remain.

 

After that, there were two groups that convened for discussions:

1. The group discussing Local Government were led by Mr. Hebron Mwakagenda of The Leadership Forum who did a presentation on the rights of citizens to hold their village chairpersons accountable.
2. Ms. Pelagia Kijuu, on behalf of the Youth Action Volunteers (YAV), did a presentation on the organisation’s work with regards to Public Expenditure Tracking (PETS), specifically in the health sector. YAV also distributed the ‘Fuatilia pesa’ manual to PF members.

 

The Bazaar was intended to enable PF members to share their work experiences amongst themselves, for PF networks and working groups to recruit new members, and for different working groups to explore synergies and innovative ways of collaborating.

 

The Field Visits to member organisations was an opportunity for participants to see how different groups undertake policy advocacy and the successes, challenges and lessons in this area. The event also aimed at enabling PF members to learn from each other and share experiences including successes and challenges. The feedback, presented on day 2 by representatives of the groups that visited the organisations, was mainly positive and the highlights included:

 

Youth Action Volunteers (YAV): A participant from the group that visited this organisation was impressed by their host’s ability to mobilise people, particularly the young so that they can become healthy and active citizens. Also attributed to YAV was their ability to understand policy issues that relate to health in general and more specifically, their rights to health and their role within the community. Volunteerism and high-level commitment was also recognised as a strong YAV trait and the results of hard work were evident. The problem of funding was also noted as one of their major challenges but YAV had some ability to mobilise resources and diversify.

 

MKUKUTA Secretariat: A participant representing the group that visited the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty offices felt they had gained a better understanding of the role of the public in poverty reduction and the importance of information sharing with the public and other stakeholders.

 

Foundation for Civil Society: According to a representative of those who visited this organisation, they learnt of the importance of communication and gained a better understanding of FCS work which focuses on enabling citizens to engage in the democratic process, promoting human rights and contributing to poverty reduction. FCS also had a good relationship with donors and its clients. Visitors also learnt the importance of feedback and the willingness to change in light of new information on workable strategies.

 

Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC): The good working and well-organised environment was enjoyed by those who visited the organisation. One of the participants said she enjoyed the advocacy work and dedication of the committed staff. For her, the resource centre was exemplary in its organisation of materials and the range of subjects covered.

 

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Tanzania Chapter: Visitors gained an understanding of what the organisation was doing to ensure information reached outside Dar es Salaam to ensure their work focuses on the whole country. According to one of those who visited, their host outlined the importance of resources and government openness in accessing information.

 

HakiElimu: Those who visited this organisation saw a nice big library which was open to the public and had a lot of policy and education information. They learnt of HakiElimu’s advocacy work which entails the encouragement of public debate and questioning of decision-making in education policy. Also gained was a grasp of how the organisation relates to its staff. According to the person reporting on this organisation, there was good staff involvement in organisational decision-making at the office.

 

Other lessons learned included:

1. Policy advocacy is a long term endeavour and only long-term strategic investment will lead to sustained social transformation.

2. Progressive and sustained institutional learning is PF’s greatest asset.

3. Accountability begins at home.