Finance Bill fast tracked

Source: Finance Bill fast tracked | The Herald August 15, 2019

Finance Bill fast trackedProf Ncube

Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter

The House of Assembly yesterday shelved a scheduled temporary recess and resumed sitting in order to process three major Bills, more importantly, the proposed legislation relating to the legal status of the monetary measures introduced by Government in February this year.

The monetary issues came after the Reserve Bank issued an electronic local currency called the RTGS dollar and directed that Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system balances expressed in the United States dollar from the effective date be deemed to be opening balances in RTGS dollars.

Further, the central bank also directed that the local currency that had been reintroduced shall be legal tender within Zimbabwe from the effective date.

And so Finance Bill Number Two legalises the new monetary measures on expiry of SI 33/2019.

The Senate met yesterday for Special Business after the National Assembly met to fast-track business on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week and passed, not only the Finance (No. 2) Bill and Appropriation Supplementary (2019) Bill (two Budget bills), but another non-budget Bill.

The appropriation Bill comes after Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, when presenting the 2019 budget review statement in Parliament, tabled  a $10,85 billion supplementary expenditure proposal for the year, to take this year’s spending plan to $18,85 billion.

Senators resolved to adjourn until Tuesday August 27 as it seemed unlikely that the National Assembly would be sending the two Budget Bills — or any other Bill — to the Senate in time for Senators to deal with them before the holiday weekend ahead of Heroes and Defence Forces commemorations.

But it was announced late on Friday by Parliament that President Mnangagwa had summoned the Senate to re-assemble on Wednesday (yesterday), two weeks earlier than expected.

The President acted in terms of section 146 of the Constitution, which empowers him to alter a House’s own recess arrangements by summoning it to sit at any time “to conduct special business”, according to legal think tank Veritas.

In this case the special business cited in Parliament’s announcement of the recall, was to finalise the three Bills that were passed by the National Assembly last week; the two Finance Bills, the Appropriation Supplementary (2019) Bill and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill.

“There is only one truly special element to the business (that faced) the Senate — the need to avoid the collapse of the new monetary arrangements at midnight on Wednesday the August 21, 2019.

“That collapse may occur if Part VI of the Finance (No. 2) Bill does not become law on or before the 21st August.

“This deadline stems from the temporary nature of SI 33/2019, which underpins these arrangements,” Veritas said.

If the Finance (No. 2) Bill is passed on Wednesday by the Senate there will be only seven days left for President Mnangagwa to assent to and sign the legislation and have it published as an Act of Parliament in the Government Gazette.

SI 33, which was gazetted under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act on February 22 — is due to expire at midnight on Wednesday August 21.

Unless they are earlier repealed, regulations made in terms of section two of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures Act) shall expire and cease to have any effect on the one hundred and eighty-first day following the date of commencement of the regulations.

Part VI of the Finance (Number 2) Bill validates and regularises, Statutory Instrument 142/2019.  There have been gaps after the expiry of Presidential Powers regulations — but there has been so much contention over these particular monitory measures that it is likely the government is acting to avoid more litigation,” Veritas said.