MPs on Tuesday threatened to block the passage of the Finance Bill and Appropriation Bill to do with the 2011 National Budget, demanding that the Minister of Finance Tendai Biti first make amendments to the budget for them to pass it.
The amendments that the MPs want include improvement of their conditions of service. They are demanding salaries of $3 000 per month as well as $200 000 each annually for constituency development.
If the MPs make good their threat, the government would not be able to implement the proposed budget, including increasing civil servants’ salaries.
Chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance, Paddy Zhanda, who is also MP for Goromonzi North (Zanu PF), told Biti yesterday MPs were not going to allow the whipping system to be used on them while debating the National Budget.
He said the Executive should respect the views of MPs because the Legislature was
the legislative arm of government which had the power to allow the passage of the National Budget through passing the Finance Bill and the Appropriation (2011) Bill.
“During budget debate, it is important to note the principle of separation of powers and arms of state and to observe that the Legislature should be respected as an institution that carries the mandate of Zimbabweans who voted for them,” said Zhanda.
“We appreciate the whipping system, but it should be applicable in areas where there is difference of policy. However, when we debate matters of the budget, the whipping system should not be there.”
Zhanda was presenting a report by the Budget and Finance Committee during debate on the Second Reading Stage of the Finance Bill.
He made recommendations for changes in Biti’s budget and threatened that MPs would not allow for the passage of the budget if the Finance minister did not agree to meet them to consider effecting some changes to the budget.
“Mr Speaker Sir, I move that the motion on the Finance Bill debate be adjourned in order to have a meeting with the minister to realign the budget,” Zhanda proposed.
However, the Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo said Zhanda’s proposal was unprocedural and that he had to withdraw his statement.
“I withdraw the motion, but I want to warn the minister that when the Finance Bill comes to Committee Stage, we will not allow the Bill to sail through that stage until we meet and discuss with the minister,” Zhanda added.
The committee stage is where the budget votes for each ministry would be debated.
Zhanda said MPs were no longer prepared to endure their meagre salaries and would not continue to subsidise government and so Biti should seriously consider making changes to the budget.
“The budget has continued to show its ugly face by putting civil servants and MPs into abject poverty, especially MPs, under the pretext that the country is poor. This attitude cannot be allowed to continue as it perpetuates corruption and has a negative impact on this country,” he said.
Zhanda had made recommendations that Biti should reinstate import duty on finished products and impose stiffer taxation measures on minerals like platinum and diamonds from Chiadzwa to enable him to get revenue to finance the demands he proposed.
Failure of Parliament to pass the 2011 National Budget might result in ministries failing to access the amounts allocated to them and civil servants failing to get their salary increments effected on time.
By Tuesday evening MPs were still debating the issue.