Politics of budget decision-making in South Africa
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date18/05/2024
This thesis examines the deep structure of South Africa’s legislative budget decision-making process, in an attempt to understand how political and budgeting institutions coexist to shape the behaviour of actors and influence the country’s budget decisions. Although literature on public budgeting and budget institutions is extensive, the vantage point of African countries is limited. Given the fact that Western budgeting systems not only inform public budgeting literature, but also the budget reforms of many developing countries, surprisingly little empirical work exists on the varied impacts of formal decision-making rules on operations, patterns, and outcomes of government budgeting in the African context. Drawing from the literature on the political economy of budgeting and analytical approaches from new institutionalism, this case study provides richness and in-depth insight into the political dynamics influencing budget decision-making in South Africa. It explores the nexus between formal and informal, political and budget institutions, and their combined impact on shaping actors’ behaviour in the budget process and influencing budget decisions. The study uses in-depth elite interviews, non-participant observation, and document analysis to explore the limits of formal rules and institutional arrangements intended to improve budget decisionmaking, power relationships, and budget outcomes when contending with political incentives embedded within disciplined, single-dominant-party rule. This study finds that, notwithstanding the enactment of budget legislation and reforms to improve the legislative budget process, their impact on balancing institutional power in decision-making, minimising undue influence on public resources and promoting “rational” budgeting is limited. Specifically, the study reveals how despite constitutional status, supported by auxiliary legislation for the budget process, the South African Parliament’s de facto budgetary power is markedly inferior to what is stipulated by its formally conferred powers. The assumption that legislative and formal procedural rules would also have eventually modified the underlying executive-legislative relationship in the budget process is also invalidated.
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