The Parliamentary move to reject two government motions this week was influenced by what some legislators termed as ‘arrogance and disregard’ shown by ministers and some top government officials, The Guardian on Sunday has learnt.
Finance and Economic Affairs minister, Mr Mustafa Mkulo
According to some members of Parliament who spoke to the Guardian on Sunday, their displeasure due to the government’s disregard of cautionary advice given in advance to ministers and other key officials was the reason for the embarrassment suffered by the executive early this week.
A well placed source in the House said the government would not have suffered such embarrassing experience if it had been considerate to numerous calls from ruling party MPs.
Finance Minister Mustafa Mkulo was the first to be put to the sword last Thursday as his proposed resolution to amend the Excise Management and Tariffs Act aimed at reducing tax charges on bottled and packed water produced in the country from Sh69 to Sh12 hit a snag.
As if that was not enough, later in the evening session Attorney General Frederick Werema also became a victim of the MPs’ uncooperative stance as his bill for the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, No 2, 2012 was rejected.
The parliamentarians argued that the two government motions contained numerous faults, a situation that revealed a lack of seriousness in preparation of the documents tabled before the House. It was finally decided that the two motions be re-tabled during the next sitting in April.
“ To anyone who was keen in the House it was very clear that the legislators mainly from CCM had decided not to pass the motions but nobody within the government cared about the obvious danger it (government) was facing. The ministers took it for granted – business as usual – and MPs were totally gutted,” noted the MP, who opted not to be named.
“On Wednesday, the day before the two motions were tabled, the leadership of the CCM caucus was informed of the looming MPs’ decision and thus was advised to convene a meeting so as to clear the air,” but nothing was done.
However, this paper has learnt from well placed legislators within CCM that the party caucus meeting was hastily organized on Wednesday after the House business of the day only to be called off upon poor attendance, of less than 60 MPs. The party caucus is made up of the 286 CCM parliamentarians, therefore any number below 60 attending legislators is only about 20 percent of the MPs.
For the first time since the re-introduction of multiparty politics in 1992, a large number of the legislature sounded loudly against government motions.
Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai had tactically ensured that the decision be made through sound voting as to who were in favour of the motion or to the contrary.
Ndugai, MP for Kongwa told this paper afterwards that it was clear that opposing voices were louder than the supporting voices and nothing could be done to rescue the executive from defeat.
Having in mind the usual support to the motions but not sensed the House mood and its eventual clout, Minister Mkulo remained relaxed in a big smile as deputy Speaker Ndugai ruled that voting be done after Mkulo had responded to various matters raised by MPs during the debate.
The caucus meeting held on Thursday saw some MPs even proposing that the minister should resign as they were angered by his admission that the proposed resolution to lower tax charges for bottled and packed water from Sh69 to Sh12 per litre was influenced by businessmen.
The change of tariff would cause a budgetary deficit of Sh7.719 billion for the remaining part of the 2011/2012 financial year.
“MPs were furious because all the key matters were discussed at the parliamentary standing committee for Finance and Economic Affairs but no changes were made. Then the House learned that influence came from businessmen,” irate MPs noted.
The minister told the House the Sh7.719 billion deficit would be endured by reducing recurrent expenditure Other Charges (OC) in eight areas: allowances, workshops, purchase of vehicles, purchase of furniture, running of office, training within and outside the country, local and out of the country trips as well as building refurbishments.
CCM MPs were displeased that all these areas were copied from the opposition (Chadema) shadow budget speech for 2011/2012, which if implemented would paralyse government functions in various areas.
Charles Tizeba (Buchosa-CCM) sparked off the eventual bitter decision by the House as he requested minister Mkulo to withdraw the motion since it had a number of faults.
“Honourable Speaker as per Section 58 of the parliamentary standing orders this proposed resolution has to be withdrawn so that all the faults can be amended and be re-tabled later,” said the MP, signaling as well the amendment of tariff was influenced by businessmen and not driven by sympathy for ordinary people.
That came after nine MPs including Tizeba had debated strongly against the proposed Resolution, but among those only Zalina Madabida (Special Seats) had not seconded the motion. Deputy Speaker Ndugai decided that minister Mkulo should be allowed to windup by responding to all matters raised by legislators and a conclusion could be reached thereafter.
For Attorney General Werema’s bill aimed at amending 16 written laws, the black spot was the bill section relating to the Higher Education Students Loan Board (HESLB) which according to MPs’ views the proposed amendments were unacceptable as they would deny loans and higher education to applicants from relatively poor families whilst benefiting the rich ones.
Werema’s attempt to have other amendment be made with exclusion of the review of the HESLB Act was strongly rejected by the House on grounds that the motion could not be passed piecemeal.
By FLORIAN KAIJAGE, The Guardian