Controversial Presidential Fiscal Committee only 'advisory' - govt

Cape Town - Government on Tuesday said the Presidential Fiscal Committee (PFC) -  a new body established in September – was “advisory” in nature and had not usurped Treasury's role in crafting the budget. 

The establishment of the PFC has caused reactions ranging from criticism to bafflement, with questions being raised about how important the committee was, and whether it would encroach on Treasury's turf.   

When Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba delivered his maiden mini budget in mid-October, he notably thanked the committee (as well as his Cabinet colleagues) for their "cooperation and support".

Earlier this month, meanwhile, when a delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delivered a statement on SA's economy following a week-long visit, the team addressed it to the committee, and not to National Treasury.  

READ: IMF argues for reform amid weak SA growth forecast

"IMF staff urges the Presidential Fiscal Committee to approve, in a timely fashion, fiscal measures to avoid undue increases in the debt-to-GDP ratio, including by strengthening tax revenue compliance and cutting unproductive outlays," stated the delegation after its visit.  

Fin24 reported Monday that Michael Sachs, a deputy director general who headed up the budget office at Treasury, quit last week over interference by the Presidency.

READ: Treasury rocked as budget chief quits

In a statement on Tuesday, Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the committee played only an “advisory” role.  

“[The committee] does not in any way interfere with the institutional arrangements of the budget cycle, which is the strength of our democracy,” she said. 

“Various inter-governmental forums exist at both the executive and official level to give effect to this constitutional imperative. The budget process allows for stakeholder participation and coordination with the various spheres of government. “

The statement said the committee had been tasked with “considering the proposals prepared by the National Treasury to bring the public finances back onto a sustainable path”.  

“It is mandated to make recommendations and to provide advice on spending priorities which may be considered. The minister of finance is the lead minister in the PFC. The committee is accountable to Cabinet,” it stated. 

The committee will be involved with drafting 2018's budget. Earlier this month President Jacob Zuma said the PFC would be working closely with the Ministry of Finance.  

“This small team [Presidential Fiscal Committee] is working with the Ministry of Finance to help us prepare for Budget 2018 and in particular, to help us find ways of meeting our fiscal targets in a difficult economic climate, with high debt levels and lower revenue,” Zuma told the National Council of Provinces on November 9. 

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