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MPs rush to pass Appropriation Bill before end of July deadline

Jul 31 2019 12:40
Lameez Omarjee, Fin24

The 2019 Appropriation Bill has been agreed to by the National Council of Provinces, but not all members of Parliament were satisfied with the way the bill was processed.

The bill allocates resources from the National Revenue Fund for the 2019/2020 financial year. Last week the National Assembly considered and agreed to it.

The original bill was tabled by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on February 20, 2019. However, it could not be processed by the fifth Parliament due to national elections. Mboweni revived the bill in late June and presented it to a joint meeting of the standing and select committees of appropriations at the start of July. 

The bill is legally required to be adopted before the end of July,  and this has resulted in it being processed faster than usual.

The DA has raised concerns that the revived bill does not include meaningful amendments, particularly from the public participation process this month. The party has said the bill is a rehash of the previous bill which it says was put together by ministers from the "Zuma era".

"We have been given an appropriations bill by the old executive, put together by previous ministers. We are now forced to adopt what they put together," DA MP Dennis Ryder told Fin24 ahead of the NCOP's plenary on Tuesday.

According to a report from the select committee on appropriations, the committee had called for public submissions in newspapers in all 11 official languages around the bill. Written submissions were received from the Congress of South African Trade Unions and three individuals.

Cosatu and one individual - Guy Harris - made oral submissions too. The committee also consulted with the Financial and Fiscal Commission and the Parliamentary Budget Office.

DA MP Ashor Sarupen, meanwhile, said that the few submissions received had "no impact" on the budget and none of the matters raised by the public resulted in amendments. "It was deeply problematic that public participation had no impact on the budget," he said.

Eskom bailout

One of the amendments to the bill is an authorisation for R17.652bn to go to struggling power utility Eskom in terms of the Public Finance Management Act. These funds are part of the R23bn that Treasury allocated Eskom in the national budget, but have been released on an emergency basis so that Eskom could meet its debt obligations.

Some technical corrections have also been made to the bill, to account for the reconfigured departments which were established through the appointment of Ramaphosa's new Cabinet. An Adjustments Appropriation Bill, which will be tabled in October 2019, will show final allocations to reconfigured government departments, the select committee on appropriations previously said in its report.

The bill was not debated by the NCOP, as neither Mboweni nor Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo were in the country

At the plenary, ANC MP Yunus Carrim noted the absence of Treasury's heads at the consideration of an "important" bill. "The minister and deputy minister should ideally be here ... Why is it that the minister and deputy minister are not here? I understand they are out of the country, but please, could one of them at least be here," he asked.

Timelines

The select committee on appropriations in its report acknowledged that the national elections "significantly eroded" time and space needed to process the bill.

The committee also noted that, in future, when dates on national and provincial elections are decided, that the July deadline for the bill to be processed must be considered. Further, Parliament should structure its programme to allow for the appropriations committees to have enough time to deliver on its oversight responsibilities.

The bill will now go to the president for his assent.

parliament  |  debate  |  budget  |  appropriations  |  ncop
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