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This chapter looks at the background to the study, problem statement, objectives of the study, research questions, significance of the study, scope and limitations of the study and the organization of the study.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY (BUEA COUNCIL)
Central governments over the world have made human and environmental development their primary objective and have therefore used decentralization as a method of sharing development responsibilities with para–state agencies such as the local authorities. Rodinell (1981) defines decentralization as the transfer of authority to plan, make decisions and manage public functions from a higher level of government to individual, organization or agency at lower level Aryee (1999) identifies four forms of decentralization. These are administrative, economic, political and fiscal.
Local government in Cameroon, especially Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) were established with the sole aim of generating good contacts with the citizens and to bring decision making to the level where development generally takes place. MMDAs were also created to help strengthen the democratic process and lay the basis for the upsurge of autonomous institutions of governance within the structure of the nation–state. According to Aryee and Amponsah (2003), the District Assemblies have added potential advantage such as spreading development skills throughout the society.
Bill No 762/PJL/An on the Orientation of Decentralisation No51/AN Spell out several responsibilities and specific functions of the local government (councils) amongst which include
1. Ensure legal arbitration;
2. Register birth, death marriage and divorce;
3. Give building permits to ensure proper spatial development;
4. Build schools, provide books and furniture;
5. Maintain law and order;
6. Establish and maintain parks and gardens;
7. Provide street lights;
8. Provide health, sanitation and waste management service;
9. Provide social services;
10. Provide fire fighting services;
11. Provide markets;
According to C.I.M.A, London, “budgetary control is the establishment of budgets relating to the responsibilities of executives of policy and the continuous comparison of the actual with the budgetary results. According to I.M Pandey (1994), budgetary control is defined as the process of bringing together activities of the departments in a coordinated way and manages those activities in an effective manner. It forms the budget committee with the advisory role only. The budget management committee decides on the general policies and reviews and supplies economic information, it sees that the budget is prepared, provides technical advice whenever needed and reviews the budget estimates. In Cameroom, budgetary control is the process of managing financial statements, forecasting government financial resource inflows and outflows in a fiscal year. Budget committees play a big role in as far as budget preparation is concerned.
Merchants and Stede (2003) postulate that performance relates to qualitative and quantitative description of results which can help shape the fortunes of an organisation. The relevance of performance measurement is highlighted by the popular dictum “what you measure is what you get” (Kaplan and Norton, 1996). Bogt (2004) mentions that measurement relates to organizational activities, production or output and in the public sector performance measurement relates to primary activities and outcome resulting from public policy. Performance measurement is simply a method for assessing progress towards stated goals. It is not intended to act as a reward or punishment mechanism, but rather as a communication and management tool. The goal of instituting performance measurement in local government is to shift the focus from the amount of resources allocated, to the results achieved with those resources through service delivery to the local population (street lights, health care centers, constructions of schools, road maintenance)
Performance measurement in the public sector can serve a variety of purposes.
First, it serves as a vehicle for communication. To the public, they signal the things that government deems important, and how the government should be judged. Second, it serves as a motivational tool. To those within the organization, measures signal what is important, and what is necessary for success. Finally, measures can serve as a vital management and decision–making tool, providing information that can be used to make improvements in program design and service delivery. (Alberta’s Treasury Guide on Performance Measurement,1996)
At Buea Town Council, budgetary control has a direct relationship with its performance. Provision of services has been possible due to the budget estimates as prepared by the budget management committees. This means that the budget management committees play an active and dominant role in the performance of the council. Provision of goods and services in form of health services, schools, roads among others has been low due to the way how the budget is managed. In this case, if the budget fails to generate the desired economic growth, it means that public expenditure is not matched to the revenue and shows that the way budgets are managed have a direct relationship with the council’s performance.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Budget management consists of a committee which manages the macro-economic policies for Price stability hence achieving the objectives of the government as well as ensuring that there is an effective service delivery. Maw Hood Phillip (1985) asserts that Lack of accurate budget estimates, poor coordination, lack of clear and realistic goals, failure to effectively communicate the budget and implementation has greatly affected service delivery at local government levels which is the case with Buea town council. In an attempt to rectify the above, the government has tried to train staff on budget management so as to deliver services efficiently and effectively.
The budget management process in Buea town council has undergone numerous changes since its inception and its budget is managed by a budget management committee which incorporates the macroeconomic framework, the on-going base, new programmes initiative and mechanism for setting priorities within a comprehensive framework of resources and expenditure. The process starts by updating the macroeconomic framework during which the resource availability for the year in question is estimated and the level of spending it finances, taking into consideration the set objectives that government would like to achieve. The management committee enforces control by scrutinizing the budget reports and determines the responsibility for favourable and unfavourable results.
Despite all the above efforts, Buea Town Council has continued to lack budget estimates, poor coordination, conflict of interest among the council officers who are directly involved in the service delivery, and failure to monitor and follow up the exercise especially the allocated funds also affected service delivery in form of road maintenance, health units, water channels and educational facilities among others. This therefore caused dissatisfaction to communities as well as the government effort to achieve decentralization objectives.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objective of the study will be in two parts, general and specific objectives.
The general objective of the study is to look at the role of budgetary control in the performance of Buea town council.
The specific objectives are.
To assess the system of budgetary controls applied in Buea town council
To find out if poor council performance can legitimately be traced to poor budgeting.
To identify the limitations faced by the council in relation to budget preparation and implementation.
To make recommendations.
This research shall focus on the role of budgetary control in the performance of Buea Town Council. To achieve this, the following research questions are raised.
How effective is the assessment of budgetary controls system in town councils?
How can budgetary controls enhance the performance of local governments especially Buea council
What can be done to improve budget formulation and implementation in local councils and for that matter Buea Council, so as to ensure prudent performance for development?
Why is it that most Local Government especially Buea Town experience budget deficits year– in and year-out?
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