ARUSHA, Tanzania, June 3 – East African Legislative Assembly debated and passed the 2016/17 Budget, Thursday, totaling US$101.37 million (Ksh10.24 billion) with amendments following re-allocations.
Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation, Dr Susan Kolimba presented the Budget speech to an attentive House on behalf of the substantive Minister and Chair of the EAC Council of Ministers, Dr. Augustine Mahiga.
The 2016/2017 Budget is a drop from US$110.66 million (Ksh11.18 billion) presented to the House in the previous Financial Year.
The Budget themed Towards Full Implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol and Enhancing the Implementation of the Monetary Union Protocol prioritizes the full implementation of the EAC Single Customs Territory, enhanced implementation of the EAC Common Market Protocol especially additional commitments and inter-connectivity of border immigration systems.
Prior to passing of the Budget, the Assembly resolved itself into a Committee of Ways and means to consider the Financial Statement for 2016/7 and a similar Committee of Supply to approve the Estimates of Expenditure for the same.
With it, the Assembly also passed the East African Community Appropriation Bill, 2016.
Debate of the Budget Speech was preceded by the presentation of the Committee on General Purpose on the EAC Budget Estimates for Revenue and Expenditure for the Financial Year 2016/17 by the Committee’s Chairperson, Dr Odette Nyiramilimo late Wednesday.
The Report indicates that the Community would focus on a number of areas in the coming Financial Year including the full implementation of the Single Customs Territory, as well as the enhanced implementation of the Common market Protocol. Other key priority areas are development of infrastructure, institutional strengthening and the implementation of EAC Peace and Security initiatives.
In reviewing its recommendations, the Committee once again emphasises the efficient use of Community resources and the proper delimitation of the role and responsibilities of the finance and advisory committee.
With it comes the need to align the budget with the EAC objectives and its strategic objectives. On the size of the budget, the Committee notes the downward trend over the last three years against a number of programmes and projects of the Community.
It thus recommends for the Council of Ministers to look seriously into the issue of inadequate funding, allow it (the Committee) to hold deliberations with the Council on sustainable funding as well as proposals for strong legislative and institutional support for the Common Market and the Monetary Union stages.
The Assembly is also emphatic that Partner States must desist from using the General reserves as a source of funds to substitute remittances, a move it terms as a high risk in terms of liquidity on the one side and that of litigation on the other.
On IT systems, the Assembly acknowledges the technological advancements taking place and observes that the Budget Management System has created challenges in terms of inflexible budget descriptions and objectives that are not aligned to departments. It thus recommends foe an IT systems audit to determine the strength and full proof status.
There is also need to review the EAC Budget Act, 2008 according to the Committee to enable the budget process to be made more effective, transparent and based on a legal framework.
The report also takes an analysis of a number of offices at the EAC and Organs and Institutions
Following re-allocations by the House, the Budget is allocated to the Organs and Institutions of the EAC as follows; East African Community Secretariat US$57.74 million, (Ksh5.8 billionEast African Legislative Assembly US$16.08 million (Ksh1.6 Billion) and the East African Court of Justice US$4.286 million (Ksh432.7 million)
The Inter-University Council for East Africa shall receive US$4.55 million (Ksh459.7 million) Lake Victoria Basin Commission US$11.2 (1.132 million while US$2.13 million (Ksh215 million) is earmarked for the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization.
On their part, the East African Science and Technology Commission shall receive US$1.196 million (Ksh120.7 milion, East African Kiswahili Commission US$1.179 million (Ksh119.04 million) and the East African Health Research Commission US$1.39 (Ksh141.16 million). The East African Competition Authority is to benefit from US$1.59 (Ksh160.38 million) in the Financial Year.
The Report notes some of the successes registered in the Financial Year 2015/2016, notably, the upscaling of the Single Customs Territory (SCT) through finalisation of operational instruments of the business manuals, deployment of SCT Monitoring and Evaluation tools and deployment of staff in some Partner States.
It cites the passage of the EAC Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers Bill (NTB), 2015 which is undergoing assent as key towards enhancing business and the free movement aspects. At the same time, formation of the National Monitoring Committees on NTBs and the EAC Regional Forum on NTBs has continued to spearhead the elimination of NTBs affecting Intra-EAC trade.
Another success noted concerns the draft Bills for the establishment of the East African Monetary Institute and the East African Statistics Bureau and these are been negotiated by the Partner States. The report notes the continued attempts by the EAC Secretariat co-ordinate fiscal policies with focus on critical areas for harmonisation.
The Report also notes of a number of challenges during the Financial Year. Such include the slow pace of harmonisation of domestic taxes to facilitate the functioning of the Single Customs Territory, and inadequate staffing particularly in the run-up to the exit of staff in 2017.
The long decision making processes and the delays in remittances of funds from partner States and Development partners are also cited as bottlenecks.
Hon Bernard Mulengani presented several proposed reallocations to the Budget.
The debate was preceded by the passage of the EAC Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2016 amounting to US$ 1.57 for (Ksh158.6 million) the Financial Year ending 30th June 2016.
The Supplementary estimates were not passed at the previous 5th Meeting of the 4th Session held in Dar Es Salaam in March 2016.