by Linda Straker
- Finance Committee comprises all elected members of House of Representatives
- Virtual meeting will look at a revision to Appropriation Bill which approved 2020 budget
- Stimulus package to ensure promised payroll assistance to be approved
Members of both Houses of Parliament will in the coming days be sitting to approve amendments or new laws as it pertains to governance of the country because of Covid-19, and to approve the stimulus package to ensure that payroll assistance promised to some workers, especially those in the tourism sector, receive cheques.
However, before the parliamentary sitting, members of the Finance Committee will be meeting to approve and review the revised budget. The Finance Committee comprises all elected members of the House of Representatives or Lower House of Parliament.
“The Finance Committee of Parliament will be meeting via the technology that we use for the virtual meeting…that is primarily for us to discuss or to pass approval because the laws of the land require that the stimulus package that we indicated,” said Prime Minister, Dr Mitchell, in a news conference on Monday.
He explained that the virtual meeting is to look at a revision to the Appropriation Bill which approved the 2020 budget. “Any time you are supposed to be spending additional money other than what was allocated in a budget period, then you must go to the Finance Committee for that legal support to proceed to spend, and we expect to be paying those workers that we promised, late next week or the following week.”
“We must pass this, and we also will have to look at some other laws that give effect to these payments that must be done through the Parliament,” he said. The Parliament is scheduled to meet on Friday, 17 April 2020 using social or physical distancing guidelines.
Dr Mitchell who is the longest-serving parliamentarian, said that despite the uttering of some that Government may be violating the laws of the land for measures taken because of the Covid threat, he and his cabinet of ministers have not breached the constitution or any parliamentary approved law. “It’s important to note and I heard some comments by some uninformed persons that we may be breaking some rule by not going to parliament, this government has always stood by fundamental rules and we have not broken any rules, those who read and read properly will know we are following every aspect that we have too.”
He further disclosed that the spending proposed in the stimulus package is beyond the amount in the mandatory contingency fund and this is one of the main reasons for holding the sitting. A contingency fund is mandated by the constitution with a prescribed annual non-cash allocation of 2% of revenues. Section 22 of Public Finance Management Act 2015 says that there shall be a Contingency Fund and the Annual Appropriation shall approve amounts not lower than 2% of locally generated revenue, as estimated in the approved budget of the next year to be paid into the Contingency Fund.
In providing guidance as to the purpose of the money, the law says that the Contingency Fund shall be used solely for urgent and unforeseen expenditures arising from emergency situations for which payments cannot be postponed until the passage of Supplementary Budget or next National Budget without seriously affecting the public interest.
“Contingency is what it means in case you have emergencies you can spend, the only reason we have to go to the parliament is because the amount we have to spend for the next 3 months in addition to what the budget has is more than what the contingency fund has in it right now,” the Prime Minister said.
In accordance with section 79 (2) of the Constitution, where any advance is made from the Contingency Fund, a Supplementary Estimate shall as soon as possible be laid before the House of Representatives and, when the Supplementary Bill has been approved by the House, a Supplementary Bill shall be introduced as soon as possible in the House for the purpose of replacing the amount so advanced.
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