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Speaker calls for shorter budget sessions

16th February 2013
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Anne Makinda

The two pillars of government – Legislature and the Executive -- are still locked in serious discussion on Parliament’s initiative to amend the traditional sitting period of the budget session (June-August), which could cause delays of the proposed changes, The Guardian  has learnt.

The changes are spearheaded by House Speaker Anne Makinda, who indicated the importance of new arrangements at the end of last year’s budget session.
 
In principle, it is proposed that the budget session be held from around April and adjourn by the end of June, ostensibly to to enable the Executive (government) have an approved budget before the new financial year starts on July 1. Under the current system House approves the budget mid-August, some 45 days after the start of financial year.
 
Insiders argue that the traditional practice in effect paralyses the functioning of the government for yet more months -- because it takes Head of State too needs some lead time before he signs the Finance Bill.
 
Under the new arrangement, the Speaker (Makinda) also wants the estimates for sector-ministries be debated on first before the House approves the Grand Budget to avoid unnecessary confusion and embarrassments. 
This paper has established this week that it remains uncertain whether the current debate between the two arms of government could affect preparations for tabling the annual estimates for various ministries for the 2013/2014 fiscal year’s budget.
 
Moving his motion to adjourn the 10th meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said the next meeting would be held from April 9, 2013, but was ‘silent’ on whether this would also accommodate tabling of proposed annual budget estimates.
 
When reached for comment, two key people at the House business declined comment on details. The Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, responsible for Policy, Co-ordination and National Assembly matters, William Lukuvi retorted: “That’s the Speaker’s agenda …you better contact her office for details.” 
 
Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai told this paper: “What I understand is that there are still pending discussions between the parties involved … all matters will be made public depending on the outcome of the ongoing discussions”
 
But sources privy to the offices of the Speaker say that although the Executive had ordered budget preparations for its ministries and departments, it was still weighing the options, and that a final decision could be made sometime this year.
 
“The Speaker’s proposal looks good … and it isn’t personal intention because it has drawn on the experiences of various ‘brains’ within the institution in analysing the different trends of the government’s budget approvals and implementation and  finally came up with this idea,” a source told The Guardian.
 
Another source added: “We are surprised that a decision is yet to be made … it’s a wonderful idea … high levels consultations are underway … we are optimistic.”
 
A key factor said to have held back final agreement is that when the House debates the estimates before the grand budget, there is a ‘risk’ that the House could approve more money than what in the government kitty – as had often happened in the past.
 
The source affirmed that the Speaker’s office was ‘concerned’ that if the changes weren’t made this year, it would be “almost impossible to effects them to next year … since 2014 would be too close to the 2015 general election when most of the MPs will have shifted to their own “fortunes” in the imminent polls and related activities.”
 
There have been repeated grievances of delayed payments by the central government under the current system, particularly during the first and second quarters of the financial year due to delayed budget approvals.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN