Parliament has moved to address challenges experienced in past years in cluster committee meetings ahead of the general debate on the 2017/18 National Budget which Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe delivered on Friday.
Standing Order 136 (2) states that once the Minister of Finance tables a motion that estimates of expenditure on revenue and development accounts be committed to the committee of the whole House, debate should be adjourned until after 10 working days to allow for a thorough examination of the proposed allocations.
Among challenges experienced were that members of Parliament (MPs) belonged to two different committees, making it difficult to facilitate effective contribution to the debate.
The second challenge, according to Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, was the unequal allocation of votes to clusters which meant that one committee could have more work than others.
To address the dual membership challenge, Msowoya said no MP will belong to more than one committee, making each committee have between 14 and 21 members.
This means that the number of cluster committees has gone up from nine to 10.
Said the Speaker: “All members of the education committee that are not chairpersons or vice-chairpersons in other committees are automatically added to Cluster Five which will deal solely with education matters.
“An attempt had been made to allocate a balance cluster representation between parliamentary committees. This means that each cluster will have 50 percent membership representing the two committees making up the cluster.”
Parliament has since broken into the committees after which the Budget and Finance Committee will present a consolidated report to the House.
Finance spokespersons of opposition political parties will afterwards respond to the budget statement before starting general debate.