DEADLINE LOOMS

Budget-making in limbo as virus uncertainty persists

MPs warn of trouble if Houses fail to reopen by April 14, 2 weeks to budget deadline

In Summary
  • Approval of the second supplementary estimates depends on whether Houses se will resume by April 14.
  • MPs are required to pass the Finance Bill and Appropriations Bill by June 30, failure to which  government would have no authority to spend.
Coins in a till at a commercial bank in Nairobi. /FILE
SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET: Coins in a till at a commercial bank in Nairobi. /FILE
Image: Eric Thuo

Next financial year’s budget is in limbo following the uncertainty of whether Parliament will resume sittings on April 14 after its short recess.

The Houses, Senate and National Assembly, adjourned sittings last Tuesday – two days to the official date of the break, to prevent Covid-19's spread.

But with the pandemic stretching into an unknown future, the budget-making process is likely to be thrown into disarray.

Most urgent is the need for the Senate to pass the Division of Revenue Bill, in concurrence with the National Assembly, by April 30.

This would be only if the Senate doesn’t reject the Bill, subjecting it to weeks of mediation, as was the case this financial year.

TESTING TIMES

MPs on at the Budget Committee have however expressed confidence that there would be no hold-up in the budget process, unless sittings fail to resume.

Counties stayed for months without cash to drive operations, pay salaries, and fund development.

This year’s DoRB was discussed by the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council chaired by DP William Ruto before the Bill was published.

MPs are required to pass the Finance Bill and Appropriations Bill by June 30, otherwise, the government would have no authority to spend.

Approval of the second supplementary estimates will also depend on whether the House will resume by April 14.

MPs on at the Budget Committee have however expressed confidence that there would be no hold-up in the budget process unless sittings fail to resume.

 

MPs Makali Mulu (Kitui Central) and John Mbadi (Suba South) said the National Assembly has done its part on the budget preparations.

The National Assembly passed the Division of Revenue Bill before it adjourned and communicated this to the Senate.

“The Senate should finish with the Bill by April 30. The bill is best passed before the Finance Bill is enacted as required by law,” Mulu told the Star yesterday.

“Not unless the restrictions extend to April 30, are we safe. There is no cause for alarm as we have two months to beat the most critical deadlines.”

The lawmakers say there would only be a cash crisis if the Finance and Appropriations bills are not passed by June 30.

In preparation for a special sitting, the National Assembly is putting measures in line with the emergency response team’s guidelines.

Ministry of Health officials were at the premises on Monday to fumigate the chamber to reinforce measures already in place.

Clerk Michael Sialai said the ministry would help in mapping the seating positions for at least 50 members required for a quorum.

“We are working with the ministry to help us ensure members sit in line with the required one-two metre distance of separation,” the clerk said.

Sialai added that they will not allow extra members into the chambers beyond the spaces that will be assigned.

“We will try balance so that each of the 47 counties is represented at any time,” he said.

Parliament offices remain open and are manned by two to three officers to ensure operations are not disrupted at the various departments.

Sialai said the committees has only been authorised to conduct in-house meetings "with no paperwork".

The recess has not affected the budget timeline unless the pandemic turns severe and goes beyond April 14.
Minority leader John Mbadi

“They are not calling witnesses to appear. We are ensuring they observe the seating distances and meetings are conducted within one hour,” the clerk said.

 Mbadi said there is no backlog in the process since the House had completed business on the Budget Policy Statement and Division of Revenue Bill.

He said there is room for committees to take part in some of the budget discussions in the month of May and June.

“Once done, we take it through the Committee of Supplies which can then generate the Appropriation Bill by June 30,” the Minority leader said.

He said Treasury CS Ukur Yatani can read the budget at a time they have agreed with his colleagues from East Africa in the month of June.

“The recess has not affected the budget timeline unless the pandemic turns severe and goes beyond April 14,” the MP said.

(Edited by V. Graham)