Hurdles scaled in bits for Thursday budget speech

Tuesday, April 5th, 2022 05:51 | By
Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani shortly before leaving for the 2020 Budget reading in Parliament. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Presentation of this year’s Budget Estimates will proceed on Thursday as planned after Parliament and the National Treasury reached a consensus.

Parliament had written to National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani informing him that he would not be allowed to present the Budget on April 7 before passage of two crucial Bills.

But yesterday, Speaker Justin Muturi said the presentation would be done since the President had assented to the Division of Revenue Bill as required by law.

“I will be traveling to Uganda but before then I will present the DoRB to the President for signing today (Tuesday),” Muturi told ‘People Daily’ on phone.

He, however, said Yatani would walk a tightrope as he is required to table the Finance Bill and the Budget Estimates first before he reads the Budget highlights and revenue-raising measures.

Moving against headwinds

Added Muturi: “If he doesn’t table these instruments, he may find himself moving against headwinds. But then, it is a very untidy process we find ourselves in. The highlights he is going to read ought to be based on the estimates that have not been presented. These estimates must be based on the resolution of the House when it passed the Budget Policy Statement (BPS).”

The Speaker, Leaders of Majority and Minority — Amos Kimunya and John Mbadi, respectively — will leave the country on Wednesday to attend the State funeral of the Uganda Parliament Speaker. But they will return the same day. The Clerk of the National Assembly, Miachel Sialai, said the DoRb has already been forwarded to his office from the Senate without amendments.

“The Bill will be assented to by the President tomorrow and, during the afternoon session, the Speaker will inform the House after which the CS will be free to present the Budget Estimates,” Sialai explained.

However, Mbadi differed with the position taken by parliament, saying: “ I don’t expect the CS to come and read the Budget highlights and revenue-raising measures before the Budget estimates have been tabled and approved by the National Assembly. That will be unprocedural. Budget highlights and revenue-raising measures must follow the approved estimates.”

In the letter to Treasury, the House Business Committee (HBC) said it would be unconstitutional to present the Budget estimates without passage of the Division of Revenue Bill and the Finance Bill.

The House business committee is charged with planning business to be transacted by the House without which Parliament is paralysed. “The committee appreciated that the proposed dates are in keeping with the practice set in 2016/17 with respect to processing of Budget-related matters during an election year. The committee however asked that you be notified that the two Bills must be passed before then,” reads the letter signed by Serah Kioko for the Clerk of the National Assembly, which is also copied to  Principal Secretary Julius Muia.

“This is to acknowledge receipt of the said letter conveying the proposed date of 7th April 2022 for the public pronouncement of the 2022/23 Budget Highlights and revenue-raising measures. We brought the request to the attention of the House Business Committee during its last meeting,” Kioko wrote.

The committee noted that provisions of section 39 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2012, as read together with the High Court Ruling of 11th December 2020 (Constitutional Petition No. 232 of 2019, as consolidated with Petition No. 277 of 2019), now imply that  presentation of the Budget Policy Highlights (Budget Speech), the consideration of Budget Estimates and the subsequent Appropriation Bill are to be preceded by passage of the annual Division of Revenue Bill by Parliament (both Houses).

“The Division of Revenue Bill 2022 is currently in the Senate, having been passed by the National Assembly. Sections 39A and 40 of the Public Finance Management Act 2012, presupposes the presentation of the Budget and the annual Finance Bill after submission of the National Government’s Budget Estimates to the National Assembly,” states the committee.

The committee, which is chaired by Speaker Justin Muturi, further states: “It is therefore hoped that the foregoing matters will have been fulfilled before 7th April 2022. If not, the House is available between 7th April 2022 and 14th April 2022, and between 10th May 2022 and 9th June 2022, for purposes of presentation of the 2022/23 Budget Highlights and revenue-raising measures.”

Meanwhile, Garissa Township MP Aden Duale raised the matter of constitutionality on the budget process. He wanted the Speaker to rule whether the CS violated the Constitution by publishing the date for the Budget Statement, especially in view of all the pending issues.

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