Drama unfolds as legislators approve Sh173bn Lands budget

Dr Angeline Mabula, presents the 2023/24 budget estimates of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development in Parliament on May 25, 2023. PHOTO | MERCIFUL MUNUO

Dodoma. After much drama and disagreement among lawmakers over a number of pressing problems, the Parliament on Friday, May 26, approved the Sh173 billion budget for the ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development.

The Sh46.86 billion earmarked for emergencies, operations, and coordination appeared to be the subject of severe concerns from some Members of Parliament (MPs), who demanded a thorough justification and potentially called for the decision to be thrown out.

However, despite lawmakers growing concerns over such issues, the parliamentary chairman, Mr David Kihenzile, used his powers to ensure the budget sails through in the Budget House.

Drama started on Thursday when the ministry’s minister, Dr Angeline Mabula, tabled the budget proposal for her docket, requesting endorsement of Sh173 billion for both recurrent and development expenditures for the 2023/24 fiscal year. The budget is equivalent to an increase of Sh8.2 billion when compared to the amount approved by Parliament for the 2022/23 financial year.

Yesterday, Mr Godwin Kunambi (Mlimba-CCM) sought the minister’s clarification on the money set aside for what he termed “inappropriate” use instead of channelling the same for the purpose of surveying the villages.

The same sentiments were echoed by other lawmakers, including Mr Festo Sanga (Makete-CCM), Ms Hawa Mwaifunga (Special Seats MP) and Mr Noah Mollel (Arumeru West-CCM).

The minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs), Ms Jenista Mhagama, was forced to stand up and try to clear the air, but to no avail. To legislators, the minister’s promise that the government would make some amendments to the main budget slated to be presented in Parliament next month seemed to hold no water at all.

In what could attest to this, after her pledge, MPs representing all political parties started to shout as a form of conveying a message of dissatisfaction with what had been responded to by the government on the matter.

Despite what was taking place, the Parliament’s chairperson, Mr Kihenzile, directed the Parliamentary Clerk to continue reading budget clauses, asking the MPs whether they agreed with the content or not. This seemed to have angered a section of some MPs on the grounds that they were being driven by Mr Kihenzile. The move forced a large group of lawmakers to stand up inappropriately with the intention of airing out their views. Speaking earlier, MPs were of the view that the government’s focus should be on addressing a number of challenges that the sector was grappling with.

The list of challenges includes low speed in land surveying and difficulties in securing title deeds.

Arumeru West’s Mollel said, “Even if your land has been surveyed, getting the title deeds is not an easy task.”

He added: “We don’t know the reason behind it.”

Mr Mollel urged the responsible minister to pull up her socks and make a revolution in her ministry.

“The minister needs to mend her ways,” he recommended.

Mr Mwita Getere (Bunda Rural-CCM) said he was planning to table a private motion to the parliament demanding an explanation on why the ministry was not performing well.

“I wonder why every minister who is appointed to lead this ministry changes for the worse even if he was a good leader,” he said, asking what was wrong with the ministry.

For her part, minister Mabula made a promise to work on the ministry’s inefficiencies raised by a section of MPs.

Tabling the budget on Thursday, Dr Mabula said the government plans to step up digitalisation of land registration in 2023/24 as part of wider efforts to attract investment. The government has so far registered 29,820.4 hectares of land that could potentially bring in $3.4 billion (nearly Sh7.8 trillion) in investment.

She said the ministry was committed to modernising its systems, attracting investment, and resolving land-related challenges in 2023/24 as part of efforts to make land a catalyst for sustainable development.

This will go hand in hand with allocating significant resources to enhance the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in record-keeping, service delivery and accessing land information.

“The ministry is finalising the Integrated Land Management Information System (ILMIS) by utilising local experts. This system has continued to be used to issue electronic land certificates in Dodoma and Dar es Salaam,” Dr Mabula said.

As of May 15, 2023, a total of 23,150 electronic certificates had been issued through the system, bringing the total number of electronic certificates issued so far to 55,550.