Parliamentary standing committees to face possible budget cuts … as fears over compromising projects rise
Parliamentary standing committees may have to freeze some of their projects given a looming cut on their budget.
This comes after Rally for Democracy and Progress Secretary General and chairperson for the standing committee on public accounts, Mike Kavekotora, told this publication that the speaker of parliament had hinted on possible budget cut.
Kavekotora had raised a motion in the August house last year calling for the finance minister to consider an additional allocation to their budget which was at a measly plus or minus N$4.5 million.
This was after their budget allocation had been severed off from N$13 million in the 2016/17 financial year.
With fiscal consolidation under way, several back benchers expressed that it was unfair that every time there are budget cuts to be made, they get to bear the brunt.
“We have to be treated as equals,” Kavekotora stamped this week in an exclusive interview with this publication.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly has been allocated N$112.5 million in FY2018/19 and a total of about N$339.0 million over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, while the National Council is allocated N$100.4 million and N$294.4 million over the MTEF.
“From the information that I received from the Speaker, the budget was cut again. It’s going to be very difficult. On the one hand one could understand yes because of the financial and the economic situation that we are finding ourselves in. But if one makes a comparative analysis between the parliament, especially the committee services and the rest of the government, it looks like we are on the receiving end. I think we are not being treated seriously.”
“That will have an impact on our oversight and scrutiny functions. Committee services get their job from the debates in parliament. They are referred to the standing committee to do further interrogation on the issues and to report back. So basically it is highly possible that some of the activities will be cut and our functionalities will suffer as a result of that,” said Kavekotora.
He said his Standing Committee on Public accounts has to follow up on the financial performance of the ministries and state owned enterprises which will be affected by possible reductions in the budget allocation.
“At the end of the day we need to travel, we need to do some investigations and without money obviously that will not be done,” he said.
But should this not be calling for back benchers to come up with innovative ways to navigate around financial constraints?
“That is one of the things that we have done even last year. Instead of having the whole committee travelling, sometimes we allocated one or two people to do the job,” he said.
He, however, cautioned that there are certain things that they could not cut because of their magnitude.
“We will have to come up with innovative ways but I want to put it to the minister of finance to understand that the legislature is an independent body and our functionality is totally different from that of the minister. The minister can still get things done on the basis of the fact that they have all the structures around them.”
“We don’t have structures. We as parliamentarians are the ones that need to go out and do physical inspections on projects and physical investigations and so on. They just have to acknowledge that we are different,” said Kavekotora.
He added that due to the separation of powers concept and the unique nature of their own challenges, he has been calling for a parliamentary service commission and not be lumped-up in the public commission.
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources chairperson, Sophia Swartz, speaking to The Villager last year, also said that further cuts to the budget would threaten their work while the number of back-benchers had also increased from 22 to between 43 to 44.
Meanwhile, Kavekotora earlier suggested for an increment of N$7 million.