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Parliamentary Monitor: Issue 16
Parliamentary Monitoring Trust (Zimbabwe)
December 05, 2011

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MPs Rediscover Their Voice

Parliamentarians have at last rediscovered their voice. That is if the events last week are anything to go by. They were expected to approve the 2012 budget. This has been the case in most cases. But the Parliamentarians told Finance Minister that they ‘needed more time’ before they could pass the budget. Up until now, budgets were passed without much scrutiny. The result: The use of a budget as an instrument of public policy was lost. And this resultantly saw the yawning and widening gaps between what the Parliamentarians expected, as representatives of their constituencies and what came out. To say that only last week we were lambasting the same Parliamentarians for holding the country at ransom, declaring that they would approve the budget if their issues were resolved. Now they have moved from the self-serving people’s representatives to elected officials who stand for the constituencies which elected them. For that we say BRAVO! What is needed now is to have the budget fully analysed, identify the gaps and make recommendations. This is what a mixed model type of a democracy like ours should always be like. The MPs should not be deadwood. And to rubber stamp everything that came the Parliament’s way would be a throwback to the issue of separation of powers. The executive should not always have its way when dealing with the other. It is a tragedy that the country has a very week civic society with a special interest in the budget. It is equally tragic that the media which should have helped in analysing the budget for the ordinary person for them to contribute to the national debate has also dismally failed. The think tanks and the academia are nowhere to be found. A simple analysis like: If I were earning US$300 in 2011, what did the budget do to my earnings in 2012?

A simple question like, from the budget, what is there for the pensioner, student, farmer, cross border trader or a peasant has not been answered. There is also another disturbing trend where our budget has been reduced to an event, there are no monitoring mechanisms from the civic society or from Parliamentarians. This is important if looked at the figures released with the budget. There was very big variance between what was allocated and what was consumed. The question is: What happened to the funds? Most probably, the ministry chose not to use the funds or they were not allocated at all. This needs further probing as it is a very important issue to our democracy.

Our Parliamentarians need assistance. They cannot be masters in everything. They should be our voice in Parliament. We should be their ears and eyes in the constituencies. This will make the use of the national budget as an instrument of public policy effective. It should never be something passed on a ‘my bosom buddy’ basis. It should be passed on its merits and like the law requires, the budget can be passed 30 days before the start of a new fiscal year or the same period after. As a country we still have time to perfect the budget. The civic society has a role to play. The Parliamentarians have shown that they are serious about debating the budgeting and approved a motion to suspend the automatic adjournment of the House. This motion, moved by Eric Matinenga (MDC) allows MPs to debate the budget beyond the 630pm time limit on any other day and 1330 on a Friday. There may be some grey areas in the conduct of the MPs but we do not hesitate to say, we are proud of what you have done. Policy review sharpens and shapes policy implementation and the Budget is no exception. As such we hope we enter into the new year in that spirit and mark your territory as the legislature. But meanwhile we reiterate: Bravo to MPs.

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