BILL WATCH 47/2016
[13th October 2016]
Both Houses Sat This Week and will Continue on Tuesday 11th October
Last week’s Bill Watch 46/2016 dated 7th October concentrated on the President’s speech of 6th October at the ceremonial opening of the Fourth Session of the present Parliament, particularly the Government’s legislative agenda for the session announced in the speech. This bulletin—
· looks back at other Parliamentary business transacted last week, including the final sittings of the previous session on 4th October
· gives an update on pending by-elections to fill vacancies in the National Assembly.
In Parliament Last Week
Tuesday 4th October [Last Sittings of the Third Session]
As explained in Bill Watch 45/2016 of 4th October, both Houses faced unplanned ordinary sittings on Tuesday afternoon, brought about when the President, at very short notice, postponed the Official Opening of the Fourth Session from that day until 6th October.
Senators had nothing to say on motions still listed on the Order Paper. The Senate, therefore, adjourned after only a few minutes, to await the beginning of the Fourth Session two days later.
National Assembly – Public Accounts Committee Report on Ministry of Justice Accounts
MPs in the National Assembly, however, made good use of their sitting and spent over two hours to hearing and debating – and adopting – a Public Accounts Committee [PAC] Report presented by PAC chairperson Hon Mpariwa on the Auditor-General’s Report on the Appropriation and Fund Accounts of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for the year 2014. The PAC’s report refers to adverse findings made by the Auditor-General in her audit report, the responses made to the PAC by the Ministry’s Accounting Officer [Permanent Secretary] and other officials in an oral evidence session, and the PAC’s observations and recommendations for remedial action. [The full PAC report is available via this link to the Veritas website.]
Highlighted in the report, amongst other matters, were: outstanding travel and subsistence advances to named Ministry officials dating back to 2010 [over $500 000]; unrecovered excesses on cell-phone advances [nearly $130 000]; unsupported expenditure from the Attorney-General’s Office Fund dating back to 2012 and cash payments in contravention of the Fund’s constitution [$218 000 and $60 000]; unpaid debts incurred by COPAC dating back to 2013; loss of revenue to the Deeds and Companies Office Fund through fraudulent activities by employees [over $370 000]. Also featured were the accounts of the Constituency Development Fund, in respect of which the Auditor-General could not form an opinion because insufficient audit evidence was available; the PAC report mentions that at the time of audit 53 MPs had not submitted their paperwork, but by the time of the PAC report this had shrunk to 9, whose names are listed and include Ministers.
“Historical stuff” Speaking during the debate, Hon Cross, a member of the PAC, emphasised that the report dealt mainly with “historical stuff”, and that there was no criticism of the present Accounting Officer, Mrs Mabiza, who took over late in 2013 and had impressed the PAC as being “totally on top of her job”. [The “historical stuff” would also have originated before the present Minister and Attorney-General assumed office.] Hon Cross also mentioned that problems with travelling and subsistence allowances and cell phone allowances had been coming up repeatedly in audits seen by the PAC.
Reply to the debate Vice-President Mnangagwa’s reply to the debate in his capacity as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was delivered on his behalf by the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development. He thanked the PAC and assured the House that the PAC’s concerns were valid and would be taken on board by the Ministry.
Note: Difficulties with Fund Accounts also featured in the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review statement delivered by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development in September [full text available via this link to the Veritas website]. Minister Chinamasa pinpointed a need for tighter Treasury controls on expenditure from Funds to ensure that Ministries and Departments use “retained funds” strictly as authorised by Treasury. Such funds are public revenues collected by Ministries and Departments but retained by them with Treasury authority for utilisation for purposes spelled out in the applicable Retained Funds Constitution [for instance, deposit fines collected by ZRP, fines collected by magistrates courts]. Referring to revelations that in some cases the bulk of such retained funds had been utilised for unauthorised purposes, the Minister proposed that retained funds must be utilised in line with budgets approved by Treasury, and that expenditure on buying motor vehicles and travelling and subsistence allowances for officials would be prohibited. MPs are sure to monitor closely steps taken to implement the Minister’s proposals.
Thursday 6th October
After the Official Opening of the Fourth Session by the President [refer to Bill Watch 46/2016], both Houses met very briefly before adjourning to 11th October.
New Standing Orders The President of the Senate announced that the Senate’s new Standing Orders were now available for collection by Senators.
New Standing Orders The Speaker announced that the National Assembly’s new Standing Orders were now available, and urged MPs to collect and read their copies.
Death threats via cell phone to Opposition MPs Hon Chamisa informed the House that he and other Opposition MPs had that morning received death threats in messages received on their cell phones. He asked that this matter be treated seriously and investigated. The Speaker said this was a serious matter that he would refer to the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders for the setting-up of a Privileges Committee to go into it. The MPs concerned should submit their official complaints, and an investigation would proceed accordingly.
Ministers dozing during President’s speech Hon Mutseyami of MDC-T told the House that “many” Ministers had been observed dozing during the just-ended President’s speech, and suggested that to avoid embarrassment on future such occasions they should be served with energy drinks to ensure they stayed awake.
Update on Vacancies and By-Elections
There are three vacancies in the National Assembly – in the Norton, Bikita West and Chimanimani constituencies. The President has ordered by-elections for Norton and Chimanimani West, but not for Bikita West.
Polling dates and candidates for the Norton and Chimanimani West by-elections
Polling date: Saturday 22nd October
Candidates: Ronald CHINDEDZA [ZANU-PF]; David CHOGA [NCA]; Temba Peter MLISWA [Independent]
Polling date: Saturday 26th November
Candidates: Peter GUDYANGA [RDP]; Nokuthula MATSIKENYERE [ZANU-PF]; Edmore MTETWA [Independent]; Pesanai MUSAKANUKA [NCA]
Note on the Bikita West vacancy
The Speaker announced this vacancy in terms of section 129(1)(i) of the Constitution on 20th July, following the sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment for rape imposed on the incumbent MP Munyaradzi Kereke on 11th July in the regional court. On 21st July, however, Dr Kereke noted an appeal against conviction and sentence. The noting of the appeal raised the possibility that the vacancy may fall away, because section 129(1)(i) provides that a seat becomes vacant on the holder’s conviction and sentence unless on appeal the conviction is set aside or sentence reduced to less than six months or to a punishment other than imprisonment. Dr Kereke has been in prison since being sentenced, and the High Court recently rejected his application for bail pending the determination of his appeal; accordingly, the noting of the appeal has not enabled him to exercise his functions as MP or to be paid as such – as would have been the case had he been released on bail pending his appeal’s outcome [Constitution, section 129(2)].
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