x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Budget rule breaches 'are fewer every year', say FNC members

Despite the long list of breaches to budget rules presented to the FNC on Tuesday, members said many problems had been resolved since last year.

ABU DHABI // Despite the long list of breaches to budget rules presented to the FNC on Tuesday, members said many problems had been resolved since last year.

"There were improvements in the number of violations and the way it was presented," said Ali Al Nuaimi (Ajman) yesterday. "Credit goes to the Ministry of Finance."

Mr Al Nuaimi said at this rate he was optimistic next year's report would show even fewer instances of government misspending.

Most of the problems were carried over from previous years, including that of the Ministry of Interior collecting fees for residency and naturalisation services through a private company, in contravention of the regulations.

It also failed to pass revenue from traffic fines, except those in Abu Dhabi, to the federal Government.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has still not bought embassies and accommodation for diplomats, for which funds had been allocated years before.

Other ministries, including Labour, Culture, Youth and Community Development, Public Works, and Defence had also failed to correct problems from previous years.

In some instances, the committee asked ministry officials to join their closed meetings to explain discrepancies.

While most sought to justify their practices, others said they were trying to correct problems.

When the Ministry of Justice was asked why court revenues were not being fed directly to the federal budget, officials said the issue was being resolved through the inspections department, which was considering a decree on the matter.

The ministry was also taken to task over revenues from the Umm Al Quwain federal court that were not being passed to federal coffers.

The ministry accepted this, and said the matter had been raised to higher authorities in the emirate.

The Justice Ministry said a lack of Emirati staff stopped it monitoring revenues internally and asked for additional funds for this.

Ministry of Interior officials said they were working to synchronise fines and fees across the country. When that happened, all revenues would go into public coffers.

A Cabinet decision last year resolved a previous problem with Civil Defence organisation, they said, and a decision was expected soon to combine fees for residency and naturalisation, and traffic fines.

The officials said because most police staff worked at the local level, their salaries come from local government. That could soon change, with police to be paid federally.

That would also require the various local forces to put their revenue from fines into federal funds, which would go some way to answering a long-time demand for emirates other than Dubai and Abu Dhabi to contribute to the budget.

The Ministry of Public Works admitted some of its debtors may never pay and asked for the amounts owing to be written off as bad debts.

Correcting all the problems is bound to take time. The report considered on Tuesday was for the end of 2011 - meaning issues addressed now will remain in the 2012 report, likely to be considered next year.

"No doubt we have to give credit to the Government," said Mohammed Al Raqbani (Fujairah). "This year the report is better than last year, and the next will be better."

Members passed the report and its bill on the condition that the breaches be addressed.

osalem@thenational.ae