‘Parly may have passed defective 2022 budget’ 

Source: ‘Parly may have passed defective 2022 budget’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

A LEGAL think-tank has alleged that Parliament may have passed a defective 2022 national budget last week and accused legislators of failing to scrutinise or critique the Finance Bill.

The Bill sailed through in the Senate and the National Assembly without much debate after Parliament had to be adjourned due to a COVID-19 scare.

On Tuesday during the Senate sitting, only two senators attended physically while the rest were said to be following the proceedings virtually, as part of measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Veritas said the virtual presentation of the Finance Bill made it difficult for the senators to note the inadequacies of the Bill due to the extremely short time available to them to scrutinise it.

As a result, the think-tank said the committee stages were “rubberstamping” of the budget’s Estimates of Expenditure and the Finance Bill as a formality, which raised questions on whether citizens can be sure that their representatives had thoroughly scrutinised the Bill.

“The Finance Bill as gazetted on Thursday didn’t even look right, a sure sign that it was a rushed job carried out under pressure, almost certainly without proper checking,” Veritas said in a statement at the weekend.

“It has no page numbers, an essential aide to careful consideration, particularly in such a long Bill. The explanatory memorandum is incomplete. The usual Bill format was only roughly kept. As it was presented digitally this inadequacy would have made it more difficult to read in the extremely short time available. Can citizens be sure that the Bill was properly considered by their representatives in Parliament?”

In the National Assembly, MPs failed to persuade the Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to increase allocations to various important government ministries and departments such as the Health ministry and the Auditor-General’s Office.

Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance) and Harare North MP Allan Markham (MDC Alliance) suggested the need to transfer funds from the ministry’s unallocated reserves to increase the allocation for the Auditor-General’s Office.

But Ncube said he was not prepared to divert funds from his unallocated reserves, but preferred to keep them intact for emergencies such as a further wave of COVID-19.

“Like the committees whose reports had been presented during the Tuesday and Wednesday sittings, they were obviously under the impression that what they were saying could persuade the minister to modify his proposed taxation measures or increase allocation of funds for instance, to the Auditor-General’s Office. The minister complimented the committees on the high quality of their reports, although he did not accept any of the reasoned pleas for more funding that had been included in the majority of the reports. But he refused, giving his reasons, to change any of his proposals in the budget statement,” Veritas said.

The 2022 budget also passed without amendment the contentious US$50 levy on new mobile phone registrations.

During the debate in Senate last week, and Ncube said the levy would be payable by people who failed to remit 25% tax on imported cellphones to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

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