A Dar es Salaam-based Non-Governmental Organization, “Sikika” has expressed dismay over National Assembly’s Speaker Anne Makinda’s statement that it was not her responsibility to ensure that MPs were availed with government 2012/2013 budget books on time.
“Madam Speaker is overall responsible for implementation of the Standing Orders,” Sikika’s Executive Director, Irenei Kiria, in an official statement yesterday.
The NGO said it was “equally disturbed with the response of the Director of Parliamentary Business, John Joel and apparent ignorance about Article 96 of the National Assembly Standing Orders which states that the MPs are supposed to have received copies of Government budget estimates, at least 21 days before resuming the Parliamentary Budget Session.”
“We ask ourselves, if he is sincerely not aware about the Standing Orders, what is he doing in that reputable office? Why bully the reporter? Is this how a civic servant is supposed to respond when asked to provide the information that is of public interest?” questioned Kiria.
According to him, Article 18 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania (1977) clearly stipulates the rights of every Tanzanian to seek or disseminate information regardless of national boundaries.
He said, journalists, MPs and all Tanzanians have the “right to be informed at all times of various important events of life and activities of the people and also of issues of importance to the society.”
The director said Sikika learned that while the budget session is planned to start on 12th June 2012, while by 1st June 2012, the budget books had not been disseminated to the MPs.
“Sikika is bothered because this delay has become a trend as MPs receive budget books late, and sometimes when the budget session has already started. Failure to make budget books available to MPs on time leads to several problems. MPs may sometimes pass government budget that they are less familiar with, hence rubber-stamping. The budget books are usually presented in complicated formats; thus, discouraging participation of MPs who are less familiar with government budgets,” said Kiria.
“We also noted that MPs are not provided with detailed Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) books from each Ministry, departments and Government Parastatals. Failure to make MTEFs available to MPs leads to either unintentional approval of inflated budgets for some activities or endorsing funding for non-priority areas,” he noted.
The NGO urged the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Director of Parliamentary Business to be more responsive and accountable, and urgently ensure that government avails the MPs with the 2011/12 Budget Books Volumes I-IV and MTEFs for individual MDAs to allow them time to analyze and consult stakeholders and constituencies before discussions and approval of budget in the House.
“The same books should be immediately posted on the Ministry of Finance and Parliament websites for the public access so that they can consult with their MPs as they are supposed to approve the budget on behalf of the citizens,” stated part of the statement.