National Assembly Six budget heads approved yesterday |27 February 2021
The National Assembly yesterday continued with its probing of the national budget for 2021, during which it approved a total of six budget heads.
These were for the Seychelles Intelligence Service, department of public administration (DPA), other wages and salaries (gratuities, compensations for continuous service), department of information, Information Commission and Seychelles Media Commission.
With a total of R12,759,000 to spend for this financial year, the Seychelles Intelligence Service (SIS) saw its budget approved with 31 votes in favour.
On the panel to defend the R12 million budget was Benediste Hoareau, director general of the Seychelles Intelligence Service and Vice-President Ahmed Afif, among other key staff from the SIS and Ministry of Finance.
Two-thirds of SIS’ total budget – a sum of R8,105,000 – will go towards payments of salary and wages.
Vice-President Afif noted that the SIS employs around 20 people, all of whom are Seychellois.
The remaining R4,653,000 have been placed under the heading of uses of goods and services.
“This budget does not represent a large increase from the revised budget of 2020. The revised budget was R12.4 million and now it is R12.8 million, just a R400,000 increase,” stated the vice-president.
The service investigates, gathers, evaluates correlates, analyses, processes, supplies and stores information both inside and outside of Seychelles to detect and identify any threat, real or potential.
“SIS has been in existence for about 1 year and 7 months and there had been different agencies that preceded the SIS. The Anti-Narcotics Bureau as its own intelligence and the Finance Intelligence Unit specifically deals with financial aspects, and the Financial Crime Intelligence Unit that deals with enforcement,” explained Mr Hoareau.
In response to Bel Ombre’s Sandy Arrisol, as to why SIS should receive R12 million in the budget when there are other intelligence or quasi-intelligence agencies in the country, Mr Hoareau noted that SIS’ work is “bearing fruits”.
“I am sure the people working with us can attest to that, but unfortunately our work is not the type that can be published so as to better inform people about what we are doing. In the spectrum of security in the country, SIS is the invisible part – we do not work for glory, recognition. We do it quietly and confidentially,” he added.
The SIS was followed by the department of public administration (DPA) with a budget of R16,498,000. The department of public administration received 27 votes in approval of its budget which is R2.4 million less than the budget it had to work with last year.
VP Afif explained that the reduction is due to the fact that the budget line for transportation and travel costs, which was once managed by the DPA, has now become the responsibility of the relevant ministries.
“As for its operation costs, the number of staff at DPA have remained more or less the same – wages and salaries was R12.5, now it is R12.4 – and all other cost heads remain the same,” stated VP Afif.
The DPA was represented in the National Assembly yesterday by its chief secretary for public services Jessie Esparon.
Additionally, the National Assembly voted in favour of the R233,615,000 for ‘Other Wages & Salaries (gratuities, compensation for continuous service), a budget line administered by the DPA.
This budget line caters to the salaries of constitutionally appointed civil servants such as the president, ministers, members of the National Assembly (MNAs), judges, auditor general, chairman of the Electoral Commission, among others.
This centralised payment budget line, managed by the DPA on the request of the Ministry of Finance, also includes payments for end of contract, certain gratuities and compensations.
Despite the announcement that the department of information will soon become redundant, the National Assembly approved a sum of R838,000 for the department. It received a 22 votes in its favour and 8 abstentions.
“The department of information is one which will no longer exist, due to the restructuring of government and hence we have decided to cut down its costs, but there is still a sum of R838,000, which represents a portion of its initial budget for 2021,” explained Vice-President Afif.
The money will fund the running of the department for the first quarter, from January to March 2021, after which it will phase out completely.
R518,000 will go towards payments of salaries while R320,000 is to cater for use of goods and services.
In 2020, the department had received a budget of R3,580,000. The department of information was tasked with managing and co-ordinating government communication by promoting effective and interactive exchanges between government and the public.
“The government feels that this is still possible through alternative agencies such as the state-owned broadcaster, SBC, National Information Services Agency (Nisa), Seychelles News Agency and so on. Meanwhile the Seychelles Media Commission looks at the way media is managed in the country and hence we believe that, in the interest of efficiency and the national budget, it is important for us to use the little resources we have well and this is why the decision was taken to close down the information department,” explained the vice-president.
The department of information consists of six staff members who will be transferred elsewhere in the government, where possible.
“I cannot give a reassurance that the employees in the department will receive an internal post in government, but I have stressed that we will try our best to do so. If it is not possible in the public sector, we will push for them to gain employment in the private sector[…] the decision was not taken in bad faith, but simply to streamline the government,” added VP Afif in response to queries from Hon. Chantal Ghislain.
He noted that the government has no intention of controlling state-owned or state-funded media houses and agencies.
As for the Information Commission, headed by its chief executive Thereza Dogley, it brought forward a proposed budget of R2,469,000 which was approved in its totality.
A recent addition to the government, the Information Commission is guided by the Access to Information Act, 2018 and mandated to promote the right of access to information; foster good governance; enhance transparency, accountability and integrity in public service; encourage participation of people in public affairs; and expose corrupt practices.
Its budget for 2021 is slightly lower than in 2020, where it received a revised budget of R2,977,000.
VP Afif described the Information Commission’s budget as “modest and reasonable”.
The last to see its budget approved was the Seychelles Media Commission with a budget of R2,453,000.
Almost half of its budget (R1,590,000) will go towards wages and salaries, and R1,293,000 for goods and services.
The Media Commission was represented by its chairperson, Ibrahim Afif, and media secretary Tessa Henderson.