Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Culture of unity govts will affect national budgets, says ex-minister

Culture of unity govts will affect national budgets, says ex-minister
By Mwala Kalaluka
Wednesday July 23, 2008 [04:00]

FORMER finance minister in the UNIP government Rabson Chongo has said the growing culture of governments of national unity in Africa will affect the planning and implementation of national budgets. During the ongoing sittings on the Public Finance Committee of the NCC on Monday, Chongo cautioned against highlighting the requirement that compels the Minister of Finance to avail the national budget to Cabinet before its final presentation within the new budget and planning Act.

Former NAPSA managing director Danny Musenge had noted during the discussion that the process of availing the budget document to Cabinet before its final presentation to Parliament was missing in Article 310 of the draft constitution.

But Chongo said while it was up to the committee to entrench the requirement of Cabinet scrutinising the budget before it is tabled in the new constitution, they should bear in mind Africa’s complicated political landscape.

“Africa is a very fun place. We just had a very difficult election in Kenya and Koffi Annan had to go and wangle together a Cabinet from desperate groups,” Chongo said. “When you have a government which is not so cohesive and put together by some political engineering, it is not predictable at that point what the minister of finance belonging to one faction will be able to do.”

Reverend George Chipawa also said it would be premature to include the above requirement in the budget and planning Act because that was not its final presentation to Cabinet before its tabling.

Mbabala UPND member of parliament Emmanuel Hachipuka also said the budget process was at this time still at its information collation and it was therefore not necessary to include it in the Act in question.

Former Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Lloyd Sichilongo, who is the committee’s consultant, said including that Cabinet requirement in the pre-budget presentation in the budget Act would cause Article 310 to suffer ideological misery once it came into effect.

“We may be committing some tautology,” he said. “The Minister of Finance is a member of the executive body of government, so there is no way that he can on his own just take a budget to Parliament. He has to clear it…I do not think we should be overly worried by this to the extent that you overload the (constitutional) document.”

Ultimately, the committee resolved not to entrench the part where the Minister of Finance is supposed to avail the budget document to Cabinet in its formative stages.

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