Tuesday 6th December A start was made on the presentation of reports of Portfolio Committees and the Public Accounts Committee on the 2023 Budget as presented on Thursday 24th November.
Hon Dr Nyashanu led with the presentation of the Budget, Finance and Economic Development committee’s lengthy and comprehensive report which we shall endeavour to make available on the Veritas website. By 5.23 pm another eleven reports had been presented, at which point the Acting Speaker interrupted proceedings with an announcement that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development had been called by the President and that further reports would have to be presented the next day. The House then adjourned.
Wednesday 7th December The usual Question Time and Private Members’ business was excluded by the fast-tracking resolution. But when it came to continuation of the Budget debate, Hon Biti and Hon Gonese protested at the absence of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, saying it was essential for him to be present in person.
The Deputy Speaker said the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development officials would take notes for him and asked Hon Biti and Hon Gonese to approach the Chair and apparently satisfied them with whatever she said to them in confidence. Six further reports were then presented before the House adjourned at 4.20 pm.
Thursday 8th December After the approval of the Revised Georgetown Agreement by the House [see below], there were further complaints about the continued absence of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, who was apparently out of the country, and the lack of an explanation for it.
Eventually the objectors agreed to a compromise that the Deputy Minister would take notes for his Minister. One further committee report on the Budget was presented – that of the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services which had been delayed by the inability of the Ministry of Defence to attend the feedback meeting with the committee the previous week. After that presentation MPs were obviously in no mood to continue with Budget business.
On two occasions the division bells had to be rung when attendance dropped below the quorum of 70 MPs and the Deputy Speaker had to appeal to MPs to behave themselves. Eventually, a quorum was assembled to approve Hon Dr Murire’s motion for the restoration of his Private Member’s Bill to the Order Paper, and the House adjourned until Tuesday 13th December without completing the Budget debate.
We await further information about how the House will proceed with the Budget debate and Budget business generally next week, remembering that the practice for the last two years has been for Parliament to complete work on the Budget before Christmas so as to enable the two Budget Bills to be gazetted as Acts before the end of the year.
Whether that practice can be followed this year seems to depend on the early return of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. If the aim is to that follow the practice, use of fast-tracking seems inevitable, for both late-night sittings and sittings on Friday 16th December, and even sittings next week