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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 32 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
July 23, 2012

Introduction

The House of Assembly passed the Electoral Amendment Bill on Tuesday 17 July 2012. The Chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology presented the Committee’s Report on the state of tertiary institutions in the country. The Registrar General appeared before the Public Accounts Committee on Monday 16 July 2012 to explain why his department flouted treasury regulations. The Minister of Finance, Hon. Tendai Biti presented the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement in Parliament on Wednesday 18 July 2012.

PLENARY PROCEEDINGS IN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement

The Minister of Finance, Hon. Tendai Biti presented the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement in Parliament on Wednesday 18 July 2012. The Minister revised downwards the 2012 National Budget from $4 billion to $3.64 billion against the backdrop of the underperforming diamond sector. The Minister had anticipated revenue of $600 million from the diamond sector when he crafted the 2012 National Budget last November. However, Hon. Biti indicated that between January and June this year, a revenue of only $49 million was received, a far cry from the projected figures. [A brief analysis of the Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement is attached.]

Debate on the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology on the State of Tertiary Institutions in Zimbabwe

The Chairman of the Higher Education, Science and Technology Portfolio Committee, Hon. Siyabonga Ncube presented the Committee’s on the State of Tertiary Institutions in Zimbabwe on Tuesday 17 July 2012. The report highlighted hardships being faced by students due to non availability of government financial support, infrastructural decay and falling academic standards. The House was informed that students were disgruntled with the state of affairs in tertiary institutions; the change in the cadetship programme resulting in some students being removed as beneficiaries and the absence of a grant loan scheme. Members also lamented the poor infrastructure at tertiary institutions; for instance, the poor state of libraries. The House also heard that most students were not able to raise tuition fees. Thus, Members called upon the Ministry of Finance to release funding for the cadetship programme without further delay.

The Committee also noted in its report that students in tertiary institutions were generally in low morale and this had adversely affected their academic performance as well as their performance in extra-curricular activities.

Members also called upon government to improve the working conditions of lecturers in tertiary institutions as this has a bearing on the academic standards in these institutions.

Debate on the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Education Sports Arts and Culture on Challenges facing the Education Sector

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education, Sport and Culture, Hon. Dorothy Mangami tabled the Committee’s second report on the challenges facing the Education sector.

The committee noted that the major problem facing the education sector at the moment was the issue of poor remuneration and working conditions for teachers. This has led to the emergence of teachers’ incentives levy in schools. Due to poor remuneration, teachers have now diverted much of their focus to private income-generating activities such as extra lessons at the expense of their core business. This has resulted in the sprouting of profit-making colleges. Most of these colleges were not registered.

The major concern on teachers’ incentives was that there was no clear policy on how much should be given to teachers by parents. This has created gaps between teachers’ incomes depending on the schools. Teachers in rural areas have been greatly disadvantaged by this “policy” as most parents in rural areas could not afford to pay levies on teachers’ incentives. This has created disparities in the salaries of teachers in urban and rural areas. The issue has also created tensions between teachers and parents in some schools.

The Committee also noted that teachers, mostly in rural areas, had to grapple with the problem of political interference. In some rural areas, the Committee noted that there were defined governance roles among various stakeholders and as a result traditional leaders, headmasters and schools development associations etc all claimed authority over the administration of schools, a situation which was counter-productive to a conducive learning environment.

Public Accounts Committee Quizzed the Ministry of Home Affairs on Financial Prudence

The Public Accounts Committee received oral evidence from the Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday 16 July 2012 on queries raised by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s 2009-2010 Audit report raised a number of issues on internal controls, cash management, misappropriation of funds, bank reconciliations, immigration control, fuel management and unreliable accounting systems.

The Permanent Secretary, Mr. Melusi Matshiya and his colleagues from the Registrar General’s Office, Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Department of Immigration appeared before the Committee on Monday to explain the irregularities raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The Committee was shocked to hear from the Home Affairs Permanent Secretary that his ministry did not comply with the Public Finance Management regulations, because he was not aware of such regulations.

Mr. Matshiya acknowledged to the Committee that his ministry flouted treasury regulations because they did not see value in surrendering revenue generated by departments under the ministry to the treasury given the hyperinflationary environment at the time. This view was shared by the Registrar General, Mr. Tobaiwa Mudede who said common sense usually took precedence over the law. Mr. Mudede told the Committee that due to bureaucracy in the Ministry of Finance, his department saw it fit to use common sense in using their funds rather than follow laid out procedures.

House of Assembly Passes the Electoral Amendment Bill

The House of Assembly passed the Electoral Amendment Bill on Tuesday 17 July 2012 and immediately transmitted it to the Senate.

The Bill is part of the election roadmap which the parties committed themselves to under the Global Political Agreement (GPA), together with a new Constitution and other reforms.

PLENARY PROCEEDINGS IN THE SENATE

Update on Legislation

The Senate passed the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, the Electoral Amendment Bill and the Older Persons Bill on Thursday 19 July 2012 without amendments.

Debate on Adverse Reports issued by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) on various statutory instruments was deferred pending a meeting between the PLC Members and the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs. The objective of the meeting is to discuss the PLC’s observations with a view to finding common ground with the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs as they have different legal interpretations on the statutory instruments in question.

Adoption of Motions

The Senate wound up debate on the following reports and motions in view of the end of the current session of Parliament next week:

  • Motion on the plight of teachers
  • Report of the 59th Session of the Executive Committee and the 34th Conference of the African Parliamentary Union (APU), which was held in Khartoum (Sudan) from 27th November¡X1st December 2011,
  • Report of the delegation to the 5th International Women¡¦s Conference on Women and Technology, held in Bangalore India,
  • First Report of the Thematic Committee on the State of Prisons and Prisoners in Zimbabwe

Prorogation of Parliament

President Mugabe was expected to prorogue parliament on Monday 23 July 2012, with the official opening of the 5th and last Session of the current Parliament set for Tuesday 24 July 2012. However, information at hand indicates that the official opening of the 5th Session has been deferred to a date yet to be advised.

Parliament Sitting Next Week

Both Houses of Parliament will be sitting on Tuesday 24 July 2012. The major business before the House of Assembly this week is the consideration of the Finance and Appropriation Bills, necessitated by the adjustment of the 2012 National Budget by the Minister of Finance as proposed in his Mid-Term Fiscal Policy Review Statement on Wednesday 18 July 2012.

The Senate is set to dispense with adverse reports issued by the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) on various statutory instruments.

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