Light at the end of the tunnel for EAC

Friday September 25 2020

The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) in

The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) in session. The East African Community will today present its 2020/21 budget before a virtually sitting of the regional assembly. PHOTO | FILE 

By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. The main budget of the East African Community (EAC) for the 2020/2021 financial year will finally be tabled today. This follows a three month-delay occasioned by a crippling cash crisis and other factors the regional organization has been grappling with.

Mr Bobi Odiko, the spokesperson of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), said yesterday that the budget would be tabled from 2.30pm.

“Yes, I can confirm that there is the EAC Budget Speech happening,” he told The Citizen when contacted for comment.

He said the speech would be delivered to the assembly via video conferencing by the chair of the EAC Council of Ministers, Prof Nshuti Manasseh. Prof Manasseh is also the Rwandan state minister in charge of EAC affairs. Rwanda has held the EAC chair since February last year.

Mr Odiko declined further details, only saying that the session would be for the tabling of the full budget to cover the entire 2020/21 fiscal year.

The EAC had proposed a $97.4 million budget for expenditure by its organs, institutions and programmes in 2020/21.

Advertisement

Half of the amount is to be raised by the six partner states – Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan – while the rest is expected to come from development partners.

The full budget could not be tabled earlier this year, with Eala and the EAC secretariat blaming each other for the delay.

Instead, a $19.6 million emergency budget, or vote-on-account was tabled and passed by the House on September 3.

The tabling of the full budget is expected to come as a relief for the cash-strapped EAC, which has had some of its operations and projects suspended.

However, there are reports that some Eala members have threatened to block the budget to press for payment of outstanding allowances.

The 54 members claimed in a recent communication to the speaker that their unpaid allowances had accumulated to $2.5 million since March.

They are sitting allowances, daily subsistence allowances (DSAs) and other claims, which the aggrieved members say were supposed to be paid during sessions held between March and June, this year.

The EAC secretariat, the executive arm of the community with vast powers on expenditure, is opposed to some claims.

These include DSAs for virtual sessions held in recent months, but which did not involve out-of-station travel.

The secretariat is also reportedly opposed to a request by Eala to borrow $2.1 million from the EAC General Reserve Account to pay part of members’ outstanding claims.