Dar es Salaam — The budget session of Parliament, which starts on Tuesday, is expected to be of its own kind, as it has so far drawn the interest of wananchi in various parts of the country.
Some Members of Parliament, government officials, journalists and guests started to arrive in the Capital Dodoma since Friday ready for the historical Budget session next week.
A stormy start is set for the session with MPs planning to corner the government on various issues, including the controversial Lugumi contract, the ongoing crackdown of ghost workers, MPs corruption scandals and the direction President John Magufuli’s government wishes the country to take, with his austerity measures high on the agenda.
Among other things, the government is expected to table its Sh29.5 trillion Budget for discussion and endorsement. This is the first Budget for President Magufuli’s government, which has demonstrated austerity measures since it was formed in December 2015.
According to the 2016/2017 framework presented to MPs on April 6, this year, the Budget has been provisionally set at Sh29.5 trillion, up from the Sh22.5 trillion plan approved for the outgoing financial year.
The coming fiscal year’s Budget has increased by 30 per cent from the this financial years one. Moreover, the Budget estimates show that the government is looking forward to build up an independent economy, which requires the Tanzania Revenue Authority to collect more revenues from various sources.
The government expects to collect Sh15.1 trillion from domestic sources through tax revenue and Sh2.693 trillion as non-tax revenue in the forthcoming fiscal year.
The MPs are, therefore, expected to review and discuss the set government plans on raising revenues to finance various development projects identified in the next financial year’s Budget.
According to the budget framework, about Sh17.719 trillion will be set aside for recurrent expenditure, while Sh11.82 trillion will be channeled to development projects.
Apart from Budget discussions and endorsement, signs of a hot debate have already emerged, as some MPs seem alert over issues discussed during the parliamentary committees’ meetings held in the past three weeks.
Some of issues that raised turbulence among the MPs include corruption scandals that have landed some MPs in court, the Sh37 billion controversial forensic auditing contract between the Police Force and Lugumi Enterprise Ltd.
The MPs are also expected to discuss the 2013/2014 CAG report and its recommendations. For many years there have been complaints from some MPs and wananchi that the government was ignoring the CAG reports and recommendations.
However, wananchi will miss some events and drama that always occur during the proceedings because there will be no longer live coverage of House activities.
Parliament issued an official statement on Friday its proceedings would not be aired live from the debate chamber and that all TV and radio stations would instead be required to obtain news and other information from a common signal feed.
Political analysts and academicians, who spoke to The Citizen on Sunday said all wananchi’s eyes would be in Dodoma for the fifth government’s first Budget.
The Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta) secretary general, Mr Nicholoas Mgaya, said wananchi expected Parliament to be transparent and discuss issues for the interests of the public. He said the ruling party CCM must stay aside and let MPs do their constitutional job.
“We expect MPs to discuss and take actions basing on the CAG report and recommendations, it has been difficult in the previous years, but this time around, we expect a lot from them,” he said.
According to the Tucta boss, there were many issues that wananchi wanted to see resolved such as a controversy surrounding texpenditure of billions of shilling by suspended National Identification Authority (Nida) officials, the controversial Lugumi enterprise contract with the Police Force and many others.
“We expect Parliament to endorse the Budget that will resolve wananchi’s problems in various areas such as education, health, water supply and land disputes to mention but a few,” he said.
University of Dodoma lecturer Paul Loisulie said it was likely that there would be a heated debate between the Opposition and the ruling party’s MPs. He said some MPs saw the 2016/2017 Budget framework as unrealistic.
However, Mr Loisulie said it was sad that wananchi would not be able to follow live bunge proceedings on their television sets since live coverage had been suspended. “This is one of many things that will cause commotion in the House since some of the MPs want the proceedings to go live,” he said.
He added that the corruption scandal among MPs is another issue that was likely to raise a hot debate in the House, as some lawmakers would demand respect of the Parliamnet should be restored for it to regain its moral authority.
“Generally, we expect fireworks in the House, but at the same time, we expect MPs to endorse a Budget that will be in line with President Magufuli’s promises to wananchi,” he said.
The executive director of the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE), Dr Aggrey Mlimuka, said wananchi expected the MPs to support President Magufuli’s austerity measures and his efforts to curb corruption in the country. “As the government looks forward to table a less donor dependent Budget, we expect MPs to support President Magufuli’s efforts that aim at avoiding donors’ fatigue,” he said.
Dr Mlimuka sid Parliament was expected to endorse a Budget that would enable the private sector to prevail and support government in collecting more tax from various domestic sources.