Financial constraints have frustrated two critical parliamentary committees from meeting ahead of the Mid-year Budget Review meeting set for February, it has been established.
The development has come about because in the 2014/15 financial year, Treasury only provided funding for nine months and operations at Parliament had arrears with members of Parliament (MPs), among others.
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee and Budget and Finance Committee are critical in the scrutiny of the national budget and public expenditure in general.
Public Accounts Committee chairperson Alekeni Menyani confirmed that Parliament secretariat and Finance Department have told them Treasury has not provided the requested funding.
He said: “There is no funding for our meeting. The Parliament secretariat has even said they cannot encourage us to come up with a programme for the meeting because it is highly likely there would be no funding.”
Among the programme of work for the Public Accounts Committee ahead of the February meeting was the data analysis report compiled by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) which indicated that K577 billion could not be accounted for in government’s bank statements between 2009 and December 31 2014.
The report was tabled in Parliament last June and referred to the committee for further scrutiny and analysis before reporting back to the House. However, for the second time, no funding has been provided for the activity.
The committee was also expected to conclude the audit report on councils, discuss the performance audit for Central Medical Stores and an external audit of the National Audit Office.
The Budget and Finance Committee will also not be funded to prepare reports ahead of the Mid-term Budget Review Meeting.
According to Parliament’s Standing Order 158, the committee is supposed to engage the Minister of Finance in the process of formulating the budget and monitoring it throughout the cycle.
Ahead of the Mid-year Budget Review Meeting, the committee was expected to review the performance of the budget between July 1 and December 31, the first half of the government financial year.
In the 2015/16 financial year, Parliament’s allocation for internal travel was the second largest at K2.4 billion preceded by salaries and allowances at K2.7 billion.
But the Legislature has denied accusations of over-expenditure from the Executive on operations, arguing that by October 2015, it had spent K2.3 billion of the K8.3 billion allocated for operations even in the face of a K481 million funding cut in the previous year which resulted in arrears.
In the coming Mid-year Budget Review, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe is expected to present a revised budget due to the poor fiscal performance of the 2015/16 budget and pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which put the economy off-track.
From July to November, domestic revenue collection amounted to K239 billion against a projected target of K247 billion for the period.