Bill Watch 5/2014 of 4th February [Parliament to Resume Budget Business Today]

BILL WATCH 5/2014

[4th February 2014]

Both Houses of Parliament Are Sitting Again This Week

Coming up in Parliament 4th to 6th February

National Assembly

Budget business

Having passed the Finance Bill last week [see Bill Watch 4, 2014 of 29th January], the National Assembly still has to complete the remaining stages of the Budget process:

·        Appropriation (2014) Bill, H.B. 3, 2014 [revised version gazetted on 31st January, after last week’s Parliamentary sittings and approval of the Estimates of Expenditure for 2014 on 29th January.  This new version is a repeat ofH.B. 10, 2013, with the same 29 Votes set out in its Schedule, but with Sub-Votes now included, showing the amounts to be voted for all the constitutional entities referred to section 302(2) of the Constitution – instead of only the Judicial Service Commission and the Civil Service Commission.  There is no change to the total amount to be appropriated.  This new version is believed to have satisfied the objections of the Parliamentary Legal Committee to the earlier version as not complying with section 305(2) of the Constitution – see Bill Watch 4/2013]

·        Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for 2013

  • ·        Financial Adjustments Bill, H.B. 4, 2014, also gazetted on 31st January [a Bill to condone overspending by 12 Ministries and Departments during the 2013 financial year.  Section 307 of the Constitution requires the Minister of Finance to introduce this Bill to allow Parliament to decide whether or not to condone expenditure not that was in excess of the amounts appropriated or for purposes for which nothing was appropriated].

[Estimates of Expenditure and Bills available – see addresses at the end of this bulletin]

These Bills, once passed by the National Assembly, will be transmitted to the Senate.

Non-Budget Bills

Bill awaiting Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] report

  • ·        Sovereign Wealth Fund of Zimbabwe Bill [H.B. 6/2013].  The Bill cannot proceed to the Second Reading stage until the PLC has reported whether or not the Bill complies with the Constitution.

Bills gazetted and awaiting introduction

·        Biological and Toxin Weapons Control Bill [H.B. 5.2013].  [Available; see addresses at the end of this bulletin.]

  • ·        Electoral Amendment Bill [not yet available].

Other business

Motion for 30-year sentence for rape  This new motion, to be proposed by Hon Majome, did not come up last week because priority was accorded to Budget business.  But it is number 2 on the Order Paper for this week.  It deplores the high rate of gender-based violence and calls for mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years for rape and the provision of suitable forensic personnel and equipment for police investigation rape cases.  14 other motions are listed on the Order Paper, most already partly debated.

Question Time (Wednesday)  There are now only 9 questions without notice, all deferred from previous sittings, some of them since early December.

Senate

Budget business

The Finance Bill, which was passed by the National Assembly on 28th January, is item 1 on the Senate’s Order Paper for Tuesday 4th February.  As noted in Bill Watch 4/2014, the Senate’s powers to change this Bill, and the Appropriation and Financial Adjustments Bill which will follow it, are limited to recommending amendments to the National Assembly, which in terms of the Constitution can proceed without accepting such recommendations [Constitution, Fifth Schedule, paragraph 7 and the definition of “Money Bill” in paragraph 1].

Other business

Motion on Beitbridge resettlement areas  Item 3 on the Order Paper is a motion, to be proposed by Senator Mohadi and seconded by Senator Muchenje, calls for the provision of improved facilities in resettlement areas in Beitbridge District.  Debate is scheduled to continue on other, “part-heard”, motions, including last week’s new motion on special needs education.

Question Time [Thursday]  The Order Paper repeats the five questions with notice that were not answered last week..

Last Week: In Parliament: 29th and 30th January

Bill Watch 4/2014 of 28th January covered Parliamentary activity on Tuesday 28th January.

National Assembly

Budget business  The main Estimates of Expenditure for 2014 were passed, without debate or questions, after Question Time on Wednesday 29th January, clearing the way for the Minister of Finance and Economic Developmentto introduce the Appropriation Bill to give effect to the Estimates.  But the Minister said he would not be able to do so until the 3rd February, by which time a revised version of the Bill, meeting the wishes of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, would have been gazetted.  The PLC’s attitude had been explained in the National Assembly the previous afternoon [see Bill Watch 4/2013].  The revised version of the Bill was duly gazetted on 31st January.

Question time [Wednesday 29th January]  Question Time went ahead in spite of the Estimates of Expenditure waiting to be considered.  The Minister of Health and Child Care explained the limitations of Government capacity on assisting people with exceptional medical conditions.  The Minister of Finance and Economic Development assured MPs that money raised by spot fines goes into general revenue, and is not retained by the ZRP.  On the topic of the moment, mega-salaries in parastatals, he said an investigation was under way through the Office of President and Cabinet, to enable Government to come up with solutions.  The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said that now that his Ministry had identified more than 400 existing Acts of Parliament needing alignment with the new Constitution, the alignment process would commence “soon”.

Senate

Budget business

Although the Finance Bill was received from the Senate on 28th January, and its Second Reading was therefore listed on the Order Paper, the Senate left the Bill to be attended to on 4th February.

Motions 

Special needs education for persons with disabilities  The highlight of the week was the introduction of and ensuing debate on the motion by Senator Mashavakure, seconded by Senator Shiri, the two Senators representing persons with disabilities, on the need for the formulation and implementation by legislation of a national policy on special needs education.  Criticism of Parliament’s own arrangements for persons with disabilities prompted a statement from the President of the Senate, Hon Madzongwe, at commencement of business on 29th January.  Mrs Madzongwe reassured Senators that the mechanical wheel chair lifters in Parliament building are functional and regularly serviced and that Parliament as an institution is doing its best with limited resources to cater for disabled MPs and members of the public.  She reminded Senators that both Houses had last year passed resolutions allowing aides of disabled MPs to sit with them in the Senate and National Assembly, and in committees, to render assistance.

Report on SADC Parliamentary Forum, Tanzania, October 2013   While waiting, in vain, for more Ministers to appear for Question Time on Thursday, Senators heard Senator Mohadi’s presentation of a report on this Forum, the theme of which was Benchmarking the Conduct and Assessment of Elections in Southern Africa. 

Question Time [Thursday 30th January]

Because only one Minister was present when questions without notice should have started after opening prayers and announcements at 2.30 pm, Senate President Madzongwe delayed the start of Question Time.  Senator Mutsvangwa registered a strong protest at the non-attendance of Ministers.  Minister of Mines and Mining Development Walter Chidhakwa, still the only Minister present, later answered several questions on his portfolio.  He assured Senators there would be structural changes at the Marange Diamond Field and that the Government was determined to resuscitate Shabanie Mine and other closed mines such as Kamativi Tin Mine.  When no Ministers turned up for written questions with notice, as listed on the Order Paper, Minister Chidhakwa valiantly continued his one-man extemporary performance, explaining a wide range of mining sector issues.

Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC] Non-Adverse Reports
on 2013 Statutory Instruments

On 30th January the presiding officers in both Houses of Parliament announced that the PLC had returned non-adverse reports on all statutory instruments gazetted during the period 1st June to 31st December 2013.  This includes the controversial use of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to amend the Electoral Act [SI 85/2013], but a non-adverse report on that was inevitable, given the Constitutional Court’s unanimous endorsement of SI 85 when upholding the validity of the harmonised election process.

Government Gazette of 31st January

Two Bills were gazetted – the Appropriation Bill, 2014 [H.B. 3, 2014] and the Financial Adjustments Bill [H.B. 4, 2014] [see Budget Business above]. 

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