Members of Parliament (MPs) have asked Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu to consider increasing budget allocations to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) if the K2.2 trillion proposed 2020/21 National Budget is to be impactful.
Parliament yesterday started the Committee of Supply where MDA allocations are scrutinised vote by vote before being passed.
Most of the questions posed to Mlusu by MPs, especially those from the opposition bench, demanded an upward increase in some votes.
During discussion of the National Audit Office vote number 060, Chitipa South legislator Werani Chilenga said the vote should be increased to ensure audit services are strengthened to check wastage.
He wondered why the minister was not making any changes to the proposed increases in the budget, saying it was pointless to offer suggestions that could not be taken on board.
Said Chilenga: “If you want us just to rubber-stamp the budget as presented, then you need to tell us so. We can say yes to all the votes this afternoon and have the budget passed right away.”
On his part, Nkhata Bay Central legislator Symon Vuwa Kaunda (Democratic Progressive Party) questioned why government was not appointing a full Auditor General (AG), saying the office was crucial and does not need a person in acting capacity for too long.
In an interview, Mlusu admitted being under pressure from MPs for increased allocations, but said he is ready to
potential manage it.
He pleaded for patience from the legislators and the public, saying the resource envelope is thin to cater for all national needs at once.
Said the minister: “I expected the pressure to mount but I kept reminding members of Parliament about where we are coming from, our resource envelope is thin and we cannot stretch it.
“I have told them that we will be reviewing their requests as we go, and see in terms of priority and the impact it is going to have on the social economic welfare of the people.”
During the meeting, some MPs called on line ministries to the votes under discussion to be responding to particular issues, saying Mlusu was overwhelmed and was facing difficulties to provide adequate answers.
But Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda, who is also Minister of Homeland Security, said Mlusu was not overwhelmed because his duty was specifically to respond to financial matters and not specific projects under Ministries.
So far, Parliament passed 19 votes to MDAs with the National Audit Office vote deferred due to disagreements on the allocation as some members proposed increased allocation.
Among the key votes passed include those on State Residences, the Judiciary, National Assembly, Office of the President and Cabinet, Ministry of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms, Ministry of Local Government, National Local Government Finance Committee, Ministry of Lands, Ministry of Agriculture, Office of the Vice-President and Ministry of Education.