DON'T MISS : Talking Africa Podcast – Mozambique's insurgency: After Palma, what comes next?

DRC: Will the government ever reduce its spending to invest more?

By Stanis Bujakera Tshiamala
Posted on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 16:31

The DRC prime minister's office. © Primature RDC

Millions of dollars are spent every month in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to enable the state to function and pay ministers, governors, deputies, senators and their numerous collaborators. For the public treasury, the bill is too high. Some politicians and members of civil society would like the institutions to learn how to tighten their belts.

Do the DRC’s state institutions cost too much? There is an easy explanation for these high costs: the expansive size of the government.

It has 57 ministers, each with their own cabinet; 500 deputies, who also have assistants and advisers; and 109 senators.

The DRC also has 26 provinces, and as many governors and vice-governors, 780 provincial deputies and 208 provincial ministers. Every month, the state spends several millions of dollars to keep them working.

On average, more than 600 people work in the prime minister’s office alone. This has been true since Sama Lukonde Kyenge took office, but it was also true during his predecessor’s time. Every year, a budget of $10m is needed to pay for the staff of this office alone, excluding initial allowances (i.e. installation costs for the teams), which are an additional $5m annually.

Reduce running costs

According to data from the Direction Générale des Politiques et Programmation Budgétaire – an agency under the interior ministry – expenses allocated to the functioning of the national assembly and the senate exceeded $100m for the first five months of 2021. At the national assembly, $40.7m was spent on running the institution and $25m on salaries.

The weaknesses of our country’s budgetary situation largely explain the state’s inefficiency and inability to put the DRC on the path of development.

These figures are staggering and are in stark contract to the meagre revenue collected by the Congolese treasury. This is why Jean Marc-Kabund-a-Kabund, the interim president of the ruling Union Pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) and vice-president of the national assembly, has asked the government to reduce the running costs for these institutions. This comes as the draft work for the 2022 budget was launched on 16 June.

“The reduction of the running costs for institutions is absolutely an imperative,” says deputy Delly Sesanga. “This requires politicians to renounce the privileges they have unduly granted themselves. Politicians must stop considering the funds of the treasury as their pocket money. And the example must first be set by the president of the republic and parliament. It is up to them to show leadership.”

‘State inefficiency’

The level of public spending per capita remains low. For the year 2021, planned spending is around $6.6bn for 100 million inhabitants, or $66 per Congolese, compared to an average of $15,000 in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

Those who wish to put the Congolese state ‘on a diet’ also point out that non-compliance with procedures for the execution of public expenditure – which results in systematic overruns – has now become the norm, particularly at the presidency.

For Sesanga, “the weaknesses of our country’s budgetary situation largely explain the state’s inefficiency and its inability to put the DRC on the path of development.” The Observatoire de la Dépense Publique says “the president of the republic has the power to reduce the size of the central government to show that he wants to implement this project to reduce the running costs of political institutions.”

Finger pointed at the presidency

Former minister Steve Mbikayi launched a campaign several weeks ago to obtain the abolition of certain institutions deemed ‘too expensive’. In his sights: the Conseil National de Suivi de l’Accord du 31 Décembre, the Conseil Economique et Social and even the senate.

Others point to the presidency itself and the size of Félix Tshisekedi’s cabinet, which, according to the budget, employs 1,018 people and costs almost $40.5m a year. They call on the head of state to engage in a dialogue with elected officials to reduce their emoluments and to set remuneration thresholds for officials working in public enterprises.

According to them, reducing the running costs of the institutions could allow the Congolese state to save $1bn and they could also finally implement free basic education, maternal, neonatal and child healthcare, or investments in the agricultural sector… Promises often made, but rarely kept.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options