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EALA Speaker urges to settle budget matter

Saturday December 12 2020
EALA pic

Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), Mr Martin Ngoga

Arusha. An urgent solution is needed to end the stalemate on the East African Community (EAC) 2020/21 budget.

This, among others, calls for dialogue between senior officials of the partner states through their respective EAC ministries.

“We need an urgent solution. When we don’t understand each other, we should sit down and talk,” pleaded the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), Mr Martin Ngoga.

He told a hastily-convened press conference yesterday that failure by Eala to pass the annual budget for the Community was unfortunate.

“We will be in deep trouble if this continues. We should go for consensus. We are still committed to our (regional) integration agenda,” he said.

He was briefing the media on Thursday’s drama inside the House which saw to Eala failing to pass the $97.6 million EAC expenditure estimates for the 2020/21 fiscal year.

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The sitting which debated the delayed estimates for the current (2020/21) financial year was adjourned for lack of quorum. This was after four of the five MPs from Kenya ditched the virtual session and disappeared from the screens as the lawmakers were about to reach consensus on budget.

The Speaker was then forced to adjourn the sitting sine die (indefinitely), fuelling more fears on the imminent financial turmoil for the regional body.

Mr Ngoga said he has unsuccessfully tried to reach out to the Kenyan legislators on how to resolve the matter and have the estimates passed.

He was categorical that he was not “apportioning blame” on anybody for the budget crisis - adding that he was not trying to be alarmist.

“I don’t intend to be alarmist. But: why go home (for the end-of-year vacation) while the situation is like this?” he asked, somewhat rhetorically.

The EAC and its organs/institutions closed business yesterday to allow the staff to go to their homes for the end-of-year holidays.

During the period, most of the regular activities - such as meetings - will ceaseuntil the second week of January.

The Speaker could not explain if his frantic efforts to rescue the bungled budget will bear fruit in the next few days before the holidays proper begin.

As the EAC staff - especially from the neighbouring countries - packed their belongings yesterday for the holiday, there was a sombre look on their faces.

“What has happened to the budget?” they asked as they streamed out of the EAC headquarters, recalling memories of cash woes such as salary delays.

The much-awaited budget was tabled as the EAC Appropriation Bill 2020 which is anchored on the annual expenditure estimates for the Community.

Officials of the Secretariat - the executive arm of the Community - have largely maintained silence on the crisis although equally concerned that it will have dire consequences for EAC operations. When he made his maiden speech in the House on Thursday after he was sworn-in as ex-officio member, Tanzania’s deputy Foreign Affairs minister William Ole Nasha warned about the impasse.

He cautioned that the august House would set “a bad precedent” if it failed to pass the estimates, insisting that this would kill the EAC spirit.

“It would be a direct affront to the Treaty that established the EAC,” he said, as he also warned against any alternations to the budgetary estimates.

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By Zephania Ubwani @TheCitizenTz [email protected]

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