Tanzania lawmakers speak out on EAC budget crisis

What you need to know:

  • The EAC budget for 2023/24 financial year that was tabled and passed by Eala in June has not been implemented after Tanzania and the DR Congo (DRC) refused assent.

Arusha. A Tanzanian member of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has rubbished claims that the House passed the budget, which was inconsistent with the ceiling.

Mr Abdulla Hasnuu Makame said he was not aware of the $97 million ceiling purported to have been agreed upon by the EAC Council of Ministers in the 2023/24 budget proposals.

He said the Council of Ministers session held in Bujumbura, Burundi, early this year approved $103.8 million as the expenditure budget of the community and not $97 million.

“Our position with Eala is that the budget estimates that were approved by the Council of Ministers have not been tempered,” he told The Citizen on the phone.

Mr Makame, who is a member of the Eala Commission, said the regional assembly had a stake in the East African Community (EAC) budget besides passing it.

He quoted Article 132(5) of the EAC Treaty, which stipulates that the resources of the EAC to finance its activities shall be determined by the Assembly on the recommendation of the Council.

The lawmaker, who was recently re-elected for his second five-year term, is also a member of Eala’s General Purpose Committee (GPC), which scrutinises the EAC budget before being tabled in the House.

The EAC budget for 2023/24 financial year that was tabled and passed by Eala in June has not been implemented after Tanzania and the DR Congo (DRC) refused assent.

Both countries observed in their letters to the Eala Clerk that the EAC Supplementary Bill (No.1) 2023 and Appropriation Bill 2023 had some irregularities.

Tanzania said the Bills as approved by the Assembly were “inconsistent with budget ceilings that were approved by the Council of Ministers” during its 41st extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers.

This was contrary to Articles 59 (2) and 132 (1) and (2) of the EAC Treaty as read together with Regulation 18 of the EAC Financial Rules and Regulations (2012).

DRC, on the other hand, registered its objection to the assent to both bills because “the passed bills don’t respect the budget ceilings for each organ or institution as agreed by the partner states in the Council of Ministers meetings”.

In a letter to the Eala Clerk dated August 22nd, the former Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation minister Stergomena Tax, identified a variation of $576,891 in favour of Eala accounts.

According to the EAC Appropriation Bill, 2023, some $50.9 million had been budgeted for the EAC secretariat’s estimates for 2023/24 by the Council.

However, when the estimates were taken to Eala for debate, there was a negative variation of some $533,661, pulling down to $50.3 million what was budgeted for the executive arm of the community.

The Council had budgeted $17.6 million for Eala, the legislative organ of the EAC, as annual expenditure for 2023/24.

When the estimates were tabled before the House in June, Eala ended up with a positive variation (more funds) of $576,891, increasing its budget to $18.2 million.

Other EAC organs and institutions affected by the variations for both bills (the EAC Appropriation Bill, 2023, and the EAC Supplementary Bill, 2023) included the East African Court of Justice.

Others are the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) and the East African Competition Authority (EACA), the newest of a dozen institutions in the community.

Eala, however, had a negative variation in the Supplementary Appropriation Bill; it approved $1.9 million against $2.5 million budgeted by the Council.

Another Tanzanian MP reached out on the saga; Mr James Millya challenged the key players in the EAC budget to ensure there was no repeat of the current standoff.

However, he defended Tanzania’s move to question the legality of the budget proposals, noting that “each country has its own legal space to go through it (the budget) before assent”.

Millya, a lawyer, said the current siege at the EAC over the stalled budget was a wake-up call for all the partner states to ensure their officials attended all sessions of the Assembly.

He said such scenarios can be easily avoided if officials of the partner states, including ministers, were present during the entire phases of budget preparations.