Inside Politics

Fears over MPs’ failure to pass crucial budget bills

Thursday, March 24th, 2022 03:00 | By
The parliament in session. PHOTO/FILE

The fate of this year’s budget statement hangs in the balance after National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi warned that two requisite bills have not been passed as required by law.

Parliament is required to pass the Division of Revenue Bill (DoRB) and Finance Bill before Treasury Cabinet Secretary presents the statement. 

The National Treasury has set April 7 as the date for presentation of this year’s financial estimates.

However, Muturi yesterday warned that it will be a move in futility for the CS to present his statement without the two Bills being passed. “There is that looming danger that includes allowing him to set his foot here to read the budget,” Muturi warned.

Postponement of debate on the Supplementary Budget to Tuesday next week further complicates matters, MPs were told.

It emerged that Treasury has exceeded the 10 per cent threshold of expenditure allowed by the Constitution.

Yesterday, Garissa Township MP Aden Duale raised the matter of constitutionality on the budget process.

“Mr Speaker, the budget making process is clear and cannot be interfered with by the Treasury,” Duale said.

Pending issues

Duale wanted the Speaker to rule whether the CS has violated the Constitution by publishing date for budget statement and whether he has the authority to determine the date in view of all the pending issues.

According to the MP, once the House has approved the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) with or without amendments, the next step is preparation, tabling and approval of the Division of Revenue Bill and County Allocation of Revenue Bill.

 “The budget estimates can be tabled, considered, and approved via a House Resolution through the Committee of Supply. This is the only time the House can allow the Treasury CS to make policy pronouncements and revenue raising measures in form of a Budget Statement,” noted Duale.

DoRB is currently before the Senate for debate after which it will be taken back to the National Assembly.

However, should there be amendments by the Senate, a Mediation Committee will be formed to seek concurrence.

This is most likely to take a month before it is dispensed off by the two Houses of Parliament.

Another factor likely to derail the budget presentation will be the Finance Bill, which must be passed before the CS reads the statement.

Debate and passage of the Finance Bill is likely to take over a month considering that the mandatory public participation must take place.

A three-judge Bench in a ruling on a petition by activist Okiya Omtatah, ruled that the Finance Bill must be passed 90 days after the Appropriation Bill is passed.

The Finance Bill would normally be issued post the Annual Budget speech but following the ruling in the Omtatah petition it must be done before the presentation.

Duale, while seeking the Speaker’s intervention, said it was important for Parliament to note that subject to the High Court ruling, the Division of Revenue Bill must be approved by Parliament before tabling the Budget Estimates.

A three-judge Bench comprising Justices Teresia Matheka, Antony Ndung’u, and Jairus Ngaah ruled in 2019 that The National Budget cannot be read or unveiled before Parliament approves how the national government will share its resources with counties.

The court held that any future tabling of budget policy highlights without the inclusion of the Division Revenue Bill will be unconstitutional.

Pending issues

“A declaration is hereby issued that any subsequence tabling of the budget policy highlights and legislative proposal by the Treasury CS without the passing or including of DoRB is illegal,” the court ruled.

Judges noted that Chapter 12 of the Constitution is a departure of this old way of doing things and is intended to protect national resources from plunder and to ensure that national revenue is shared equitably. Duale noted that as it is currently, the DoRB has not been approved, the debt ceiling legislative proposal has not been tabled and the estimates have not been tabled for consideration by the House.

“All this needs to happen before the CS can imagine of being called upon to deliver his Budget Statement,” Duale said.

He informed members that the business of the House for any particular day is decided upon by the House Business Committee and not by the Executive and therefore, the indication by the CS National Treasury on when he will be presenting the Budget Statement is a potential interference on the calendar, business and proceedings of Parliament.

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