BILL WATCH 43/2018
[4th December 2018]
The National Assembly will Resume on Tuesday 4th December
to Debate the 2019 National Budget.
The Senate will not Meet again until 18th December
Last Week’s Preparations for the Budget Debate
Neither House of Parliament met last week. After the Budget presentation by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development on 22nd November, the National Assembly adjourned until today, 4th December, and the Senate adjourned until Tuesday 18th December.
These adjournments left MPs free to take part in an intensive Post-Budget Programme last week. The programme started with the Post-Budget Seminar on Monday 26th November, and continued with National Assembly Portfolio Committee meetings for the rest of the week. As explained in our Committee Series bulletin 27/2018 dated 26th November, the purpose of these meetings was for committee members to hold post-Budget consultations with Ministries and other stakeholders on the effect of the Budget proposals and to prepare reports on those consultations for presentation during the Budget Debate by committee chairpersons. Senators were expected to attend meetings of their choice.
Coming up This Week in the National Assembly
Budget business is expected to dominate the National Assembly’s sittings, as outlined in the following paragraph.
Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill
This Bill is due to be presented by the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare. After the formality of its First Reading the Bill will be automatically referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee [PLC], as required by Standing Orders, for the committee’s report on its consistency with the Constitution.
Companies and Other Business Entities Bill
The Bill was introduced and referred to the PLC on 1st November. The PLC’s report is still awaited. If the report is presented this week and is non-adverse, the House may make a start on the Bill’s Second Reading stage if the pressure of Budget business allows any time.
The Order Paper lists several new motions awaiting introduction. Topics raised include: the need for a National Policy on Persons \Living with Disability; the need for enforcement of legislation to protect timber plantations from surrounding communities; a call for the PLC and the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to review the existing electoral law and recommend reforms; the welfare of water veterans as envisaged by section 23 of the Constitution; decentralisation of collection of vehicle licence fees and road user charge to local authorities. Again, Budget business will have priority.
The Order Paper for Wednesday 5th December lists 107 written questions. If the House resolves to “fast-track” Budget business, MPs may have to do without Question Time.
Budget Business This Week
There are three stages of Budget business, as outlined below, and there is ample precedent for “fast-tracking” them. This involves the House approving Government motions to suspend normal procedure to allow for compressed stages and late-night sittings.
1. The Budget Debate is the first stage. It is a debate for the adoption or otherwise by the National Assembly of the motion proposed by the Minister at the end of his Budget speech on 22nd November: “That leave be granted to bring in a Bill to make provision for the revenues and public funds of Zimbabwe and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”, i.e., the Finance Bill, whose standard-form long title repeats the motion’s description of the Bill to be brought in. Standing Order 124 describes the debate as a “full debate on financial and economic affairs” and allows it continue six consecutive sittings for the debate.
When the committee chairpersons have presented the reports of their committees on the Budget consultations, and individual MPs have made their contributions, and after the Minister of Finance and Economic Development has replied to the debate, that motion will be put to the vote. If the motion is approved, the way is cleared for the introduction of the Finance Bill.
2. Approval of the Estimates The Estimates of Expenditure [set out in the Blue Book [link] already tabled in the House] must be considered and approved, with or without amendments. This is done in Committee of Supply, a committee of the whole House, after the Budget debate. MPs will work their way through the 34 vote appropriations allocating fund to the President’s Office, Parliament, each Ministry and constitutional Commission, deciding whether or not to approve each vote. Standing Orders allow a maximum of twelve consecutive sittings for this purpose. Once the Committee’s work is done, its report is given to the National Assembly, clearing the way for the presentation of the Appropriation (2019) Bill.
3. Passing of the Finance Bill and the Appropriation (2019) Bill After the completion of stages 1 and 2, the two Budget Bills must be dealt with.
Once passed by the National Assembly, the Bills go to the Senate. As both Bills will be classified as “Money Bills”, the Senate’s powers are limited. It cannot amend a Money Bill, but can recommend amendments, which the National Assembly is free to accept or not without further reference to the Senate. And if the Senate delays passing the Bills for 8 sitting days, the National Assembly can send the Bills as passed by it to the President for his assent and gazetting as law.
Coming Adjournment for ZANU PF Conference
At the end of next week [on Thursday 6th December or possibly Friday 7th, if fast-tracking is adopted] the National Assembly will adjourn until 18th December. This ten-day adjournment is for the ZANU PF Conference to be held in Esigodini, Matabeleland South.
Both Houses to Resume on Tuesday 18th December
On 18th December both Houses will resume sitting. The agenda will be for the National Assembly to deal with any unfinished Budget business and for the Senate to play its limited Budget role in regard to the Budget Bills. Whether Parliament will be able complete all Budget business before the Christmas break will depend on how smoothly things go, both this week and from 18th December onwards.
Budget Documents Available from Veritas
The following documents are available in soft copy on the Veritas website using the links provided:
- the full Budget Statement, complete with charts, tables and annexures [254 pages] [link]
- the Minister’s speech [98 pages] [link]
- the 2019 Budget Highlights document produced by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development [link] [and attached]
- the Blue Book [link].
- the Departmental Draft of the Finance Bill [link] – a preview of a Bill designed to give effect to the taxation and revenue proposals in the Budget Statement, including the new-style Intermediated Money Transfer Tax introduced by SI 205/2018, and to confirm as permanent law the amendments to the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act and Exchange Control Act made under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act by SI 246/3018..