Will the 9th Par­lia­ment Pass this Fi­nan­cial Year’s Bud­get?

By: WIN­NIE WA­T­ERA

The past few months have been quite busy for Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, the re­cently con­cluded elec­tion pe­riod co­in­cided with the bud­get pe­riod and there­fore, Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment had to de­vote time to both ac­tiv­i­ties. The pass­ing of the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act in 2015 al­tered the bud­get pe­riod by fast-track­ing the en­tire process. Ini­tially, the pro­posed bud­get was read on 15th June an­nu­ally and only then was it com­mit­ted to Par­lia­ment for con­sid­er­a­tion and ap­proval on Oc­to­ber 30th. Con­trary to the usual, Par­lia­ment now re­ceives the Bud­get Frame­work Pa­per by 31st De­cem­ber and goes on to con­sider the pro­posed bud­get and ap­prove it by May 31st.

Al­though the 9th Par­lia­ment is still un­der­way, it’s im­por­tant to note that the 5th ses­sion is soon wind­ing up. This notwith­stand­ing, the gru­elling elec­tion pe­riod cre­ated three sce­nar­ios; A few in­cum­bents de­cided not to con­test, a ma­jor­ity sought re-elec­tion and lost while a few won and lastly a large num­ber of new faces emerged. These sce­nar­ios have af­fected of Par­lia­ment busi­ness in a num­ber of ways in­clu­sive but not lim­ited to the bud­get process;

Since Par­lia­ment re­sumed af­ter the elec­tion re­cess on 1st March, the house has strug­gled to achieve its re­quired quo­rum even in this cru­cial bud­get pe­riod. Some MPs who lost are so de­mor­alised while oth­ers are still cel­e­brat­ing their vic­to­ries, ei­ther way a num­ber have re­sorted to ab­scond­ing from their du­ties. One-third of MPs con­sti­tute quo­rum and is re­quired be­fore vot­ing on var­i­ous ques­tions, how­ever, in the re­cent past we’ve grown ac­cus­tomed to par­lia­ment pass­ing a num­ber of laws and es­pe­cially the bud­get with­out quo­rum. Last year was a tes­ta­ment to that fact.

Par­lia­ment also re­leased a sched­ule for the swear­ing in of the MPs con­sti­tut­ing the 10th Par­lia­ment[1], how­ever, the bud­get is also sched­uled for ap­proval by the end of the same month. Con­sid­er­ing that the new mem­bers will be sworn in by the time, tech­ni­cally they are Mem­bers whose con­sti­tu­tional oblig­a­tion is to ap­prove the bud­get. There­fore, a new set of MPs will ap­prove a bud­get that was con­sid­ered by an­other. The 10th Par­lia­ment will go on to mon­i­tor the bud­get and chances are that they will be obliv­i­ous of some facts be­cause they were not in­volved in the day to day process of the bud­get. The im­pact is go­ing to be felt es­pe­cially be­cause some MPs do not com­pre­hend the whole process and will need time to be­come con­ver­sant with it. They will have trou­ble play­ing their over­sight role.

The Speaker men­tioned in one of her com­mu­ni­ca­tions that Gov­ern­ment and Par­lia­ment were un­der­tak­ing talks to amend the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act, 2015 to ex­pe­dite the process and al­low for the 9th Par­lia­ment to pass the bud­get. The PFMA says that “Par­lia­ment shall by 31st May ap­prove the an­nual bud­get.” There­fore, it has the dis­cre­tion to ap­prove the bud­get be­fore 31st. Al­though the amend­ment will fix the prob­lem for the bud­get now, we must ac­knowl­edge that this is a sce­nario that hap­pens once every five years and is a nat­ural com­ing of age process and does not re­quire amend­ment of the PFMA as it’s pro­vided for al­ready. How­ever, it re­mains to be seen how and whether the Bud­get will be ap­proved be­fore the lapse of the 9th Par­lia­ment.

 

[1] 16, 17, 18 and 19th of May 2016