The Parliamentary budget meeting that ended recently in Dodoma can go down in Tanzania’s history for tightening grip on government, playing well its watch dog role. A good example is refusing to pass the budgets for the Ministries of Energy and Minerals and Transport.
Secondly, the unanimous decision to form Parliamentary Select Committee to probe the handling of the case facing Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Energy and Minerals David Jairo after Chief Secretary Phillemon Luhanjo announced that the permanent secretary did no wrong when he ordered all departments and agencies under his ministry to contribute Sh 50 million each to facilitate the approval of the ministry’s budget by Parliament.
Despite having transformed itself from being ‘rubber stamp’ into ‘biting dog,’ some MPs are still skeptical about its overall performance. Dr Charles Tizeba (CCM Buchosa) is one of them, and proposes that there should be a better system of scrutinising the budget, especially with regard to funds allocation.
He says this has proved to be very problematic. After perusing volumes of funds allocation in different ministries, he says, he has found a total of Sh53 billion allocated for the training civil servants outside the country for the 2011/2012fiscal year.
In his view the Parliament is not given enough time to study the national budget documents, saying the practice leads the Executive into misallocation of resources during budget planning.
The diversion of Sh95 billion from the Ministry of Works to the Ministry of Transport is another point that proves that budgetary planning has problems.
The Parliament, he adds, should take part in the whole budgetary strategic planning.
In June the Opposition camp in Parliament complained about allocation of huge sums of money in personnel allowances including sitting allowances for MPs, saying such funds could be directed to financing development projects.
According to Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Mustafa Mkullo, while the budget for 2011/2012 stands at Sh13.5 trillion, personnel allowances account for some Sh352.74 billion of which Sh25.65 is sitting allowances for public servants. Sitting allowances for MPs alone amount to Sh4.92 billion.
Responding to the concern, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office for Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs William Lukuvi stated that such payments would not be abolished randomly. The relevant authorities would deliberate on the matter taking a decision.
Ezekia Wenje (Chadema-Nyamagana) supports Tizeba’s concern, saying that though the Parliament reads some documents of the national budget, other texts containing important information reach the MPs rather late. Enough time is necessary to scrutinise the texts.
But according to a Bank of Tanzania (BoT) economist-turned politician Dr William Mgimwa three stages are needed before the government budget is approved, namely Annual Situation Analysis, Projections of the Annual Budget and Debate - for every budget allocation to different ministries and regions.
On Annual Situation Analysis Mgimwa, currently representing Kalenga Constituency, says government strategic goals should be reflected in economic policies and be reviewed annually both the government and the MPs.
He adds that government performance in the preceding year should be reviewed to know the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats, which the MPs need to understand and advise the government accordingly.
On Projections of the Annual Budget, Mgimwa points out that the government should table at the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Finance and Economic Affairs meeting its recommendations in new changes on various tax rates and tariffs that are meant to influence cash flow of government revenue.
He further advises government to table its proposals on Recurrent and Development Expenditures for every sector and ministry at various meetings of the Parliamentary committees for endorsement before submission to the House for debate by all the MPs.
Stressing the need for more attention by MPs, Mgimwa says: “Debate for every budget allocation to different ministries and regions is an area where adequate time has to be provided. MPs are interested to verify allocation of funds to all important sectors and projects.”
Reached for comment on the MPs’ observation, Mkullo replies: “You know there were over 300 legislators, and each one had their contributions. Our technical team is working on them (contributions). We will prepare a special compilation for the MPs and the public to see how the government is working on MPs views.”