Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Opposition to halt Parliament proceedings on Monday over budget blunder

The opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change is expected to halt proceedings of Parliament tomorrow (Monday) and grill the Minister of Finance and Development Planning on the “secret” Cabinet decision to go behind the back of parliament and cut ministerial budgets for 2015/2016 financial year.

UDC Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Phenyo Butale will Monday move to put a question without notice to seek clarification from Minister Matambo.

Butale told Sunday Standard that it was “unconstitutional for the executive to temper with the budget without the involvement of Parliament. Appropriation bill is a law, remember Parliament had already passed the budget; the question then is where does this one percent cut go which has not been authorised by Parliament.”

He said the UDC will explore all possible actions including court action. “We will first bring this matter to parliament seeking clarity from the Minister himself. We want him to explain what this entails. He must know that an Appropriation bill passed by Parliament becomes law and there is no how the executive can be allowed to temper with the law without going back to Parliament to ask for permission,” he said.

“I do not recall something like this happening in our parliament in the past whereby parliament passes a bill and later cabinet secretly tempers with the bill passed by parliament. I think it’s a sign of the times. We are continuously seeing this trend where the executive undermines parliament.

“This executive is moving away from transparency; it is moving away from accountability. On Monday I will move to put a question without notice to seek clarity on this issue.”

Botswana Congress Party chief whip Bagalatia Arone shares Butale’s views on the budget cut. Arone reiterated Butale’s argument that that the move by cabinet to cut the ministerial budgets was unconstitutional.

“According to the law when budget is passed before Parliament it goes as it is. If there are any corrections that the executive or the Minister of Finance wishes to make he must bring the budget back to Parliament,” Arone said.

┬á“It is all wrong if cabinet can just make changes on the budget without notifying Parliament. I was not aware of this budget cut.┬á Botswana Congress Party will involve other members of the opposition to investigate the matter further then we can chart the way forward,” he said.

The opposition says if the Minister confirms the reduction then he must be ready to explain to Parliament why he and the rest of cabinet decided to cut the ministerial budgets without consulting Parliament.

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