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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Parliament should have greater role in budget formulation

The exclusion of Parliament in budget formulation by Treasury is weakening the legislature’s oversight and representative roles and thereby hindering the participation of citizens in the key process.

This was noted at a recent breakfast meeting to discuss the 2020 Pre-Budget Strategy Paper (BSP) between the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, civil society and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget, where parliamentarians were urged to assert their roles in the process.

The Public Finance Management Act compels the Minister of Finance to “seek the views of Parliament in the preparation and formulation of the national annual budget” ahead of the commencement of public consultations.

Program Specialist on Parliamentary Processes and Procedures at Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) Mr Henry Ndlovu told the meeting that in terms of the law, the BSP should be tabled before the legislature before being unveiled.

“In terms of section 11 of the PFM regulations, the Minister of Finance is required to table the BSP in in Parliament so that members of Parliament contribute to the BSP,” said Mr Ndlovu.

“But it looks like, for a long time BSP has not been tabled in Parliament.

“It is only last week that we saw the Minister of Finance launching the BSP but still it has not been tabled in Parliament, if my information is correct.

“It looks like we are putting the cart before the horse because the BSP is supposed to guide budget formulation process so that when the budget committee goes out to consult the people it is guided by the priorities that are in the BSP.

“In this case we saw the BSP being launched when the committee on budget was concluding budget consultation.’

“This is something that Parliament needs to take into consideration that the BSP should precede the consultative process.” 

Kambuzuma National Assembly representative Honourable Willias Madzimure questioned why the Minister of Finance did not table the BSP before the August House.

“Whatever we do must have a shared vision and this is where our problem starts,” said Mr Madzimure.

“The BSP should have been shared amongst Members of Parliament for us to debate first.

“When we were in Mutare one people were asking was for the BSP, meaning that people now understand that for them to contribute the paper must be there.

“But it was not there and it was not presented to Parliament; and Members of Parliament are not even aware said Honourable Madzimure

“What do you think is the reason why the Minister avoids presenting this paper to Parliament?”

ZIMCODD Executive Director Janet Zhou said by failing to present the BSP in Parliament, the Executive was usurping the powers of the legislature.

“You raise an important issue around the procedure, and it was in one of my slides (during my presentation) particularly on the weakening of the oversight, legislative and representative role of Parliament,” she said.

“I think that this is a key issue that parliament should raise when they meet with the Minister.

“They are saying that this has been happening year-in-year-out and from the consultations they are saying that citizens are actually asking about the BSP.”

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