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Budget tussle a wakeup call over EAC

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 7- The debate over whether Kenya\’s Finance Minister should present the 2011/20122 Budget simultaneously with his counterparts in the East African Community (EAC) on June 8 has exposed the disconnect that exists between some requirements in the new Constitution and those in the East African Community Treaty.

EAC Permanent Secretary David Nalo admitted that given the current debate, Kenya and the region will have to come up with amendments that can accommodate some of the emerging issues such as budget reading.

"This is an issue that we have to deal with squarely because the Constitution is very ambitious with very good provisions but in certain sections, we have a challenge," the PS said.

Mr Nalo however cautioned that if the country did not abide by the EAC Treaty, there was danger of a backlash given that the country had been looked upon to take the leading role in driving the regional integration process.

"Parliament will have to answer the question \’what happens next year?\’ How will they attend the Arusha meeting or are we saying that we now don\’t need the meetings. If so, then Kenya is saying \’we don\’t need EAC, we are pulling out because our law is supreme," Mr Nalo hypothesised.

In the last few weeks, there has been uncertainty over whether the Budget would be read on June 8 after Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta failed to table the revenue estimates and proposed expenditure before the House two months prior to the reading as required by the provisions of the new Constitution.

However, Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende and the courts on Wednesday issued a ruling allowing Mr Kenyatta to present the Budget as scheduled.

The EAC Ministry came to the defence of Treasury arguing that the country needs to allow for \’progressive\’ implementation of the law by first putting the required structures in place.

While it supported the need to comply with the Constitution, the ministry appealed to Kenyans to recognise and deal with Kenya\’s commitments under the EAC Treaty as well as its other obligations with the international community.

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"Whereas the supremacy of the Constitution is with the people of Kenya, the same people will sooner than later demand for services including the devolved government which comes through Budget; they will demand for services from the government as they will demand to know what Kenyans get by spending Sh480 million a year on EAC," a statement read by Minister Prof Hellen Sambili said.

For this reason, Prof Sambili echoed the House Speaker\’s ruling that the Budget should be read as per the requirement of the EAC treaty.

"The budget should be implemented within the framework of EAC and secure the spirit of the constitution which is to deliver services to the people in accordance with the Bills of Rights," the minister said and challenged the country to channel their energies towards scrutinising the Finance Bill and related instruments.

Failure to do so would have meant that Kenya was not only undermining the EAC Summit but would also be delaying the implementation of regional laws and protocols which in turn denies job opportunities for the millions of unemployed youth in the country.

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