Towards the end of the year 2014, the Government of Tanzania prepared several Bills to be discussed by the National Assembly. Among these was the Budget Bill. Understanding the role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Parliamentary Budget Committee sought inputs from Policy Forum so as to improve on the proposed Bill.
The Budget Bill was shared among members of the Budget Working Group and several other organizations made their contribution. This was compiled together and sent to the Bunge Office in Dar es Salaam in February, 2015.
In March 2015, a call was received from the Clerk of the Parliamentary Budget Committee inviting Policy Forum to present the previously submitted inputs on the Bill before the members of the committee in Dodoma. The meeting between the Parliamentary Budget Committee and Policy Forum was held in Dodoma on Monday 23rd March 2015 at the Bunge office. This was chaired by Hon. Festus Limbu, the chair of the committee.
A presentation of the analysis made by Policy Forum was done before the committee members followed by discussion on the presentation. Among the key issues that were observed and presented to the committee included;
- The need to interpret the National Development Plan, Planning Commission as well as the meaning of transparency and encouragement of public participation in the budget process. Under the management of the budget process, it was observed that the Budget Committee itself is not mentioned as one of the key players in the process. Given the critical role that this committee plays, it is important for their functions to be reflected in this Act. It was also emphasized for the Bill to clearly indicate the critical role of the National Assembly of holding the executive into account. Moreover, it was stressed that the Parliament should have the responsibility to influence the drafting of the budget more pro-actively as the budget preparation is not an event but a process.
- In addition to that, the presentation highlighted the long awaited promise by the government and the National Assembly to put in place a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).Learning from the benefits that this office has earned our neighbors in Kenya and Uganda, it is recommended that this Act takes into consideration its importance and have it accommodated. The Ugandan Budget Act clearly stipulates the roles of the budget committee as well as those of the Parliamentary Budget Office.
As a reaction to the presentation, the chair of the committee and other members commended Policy Forum for the inputs and reiterated the importance they see in engaging with CSOs. They also admitted that they had as well seen some of the weaknesses that we observed in the proposed Bill. They also underscored the importance of having in place a Parliamentary Budget Office since its establishment would as well help them in executing their duties.
Commenting during the presentation Honorable Joseph Selasini congratulated Policy Forum for giving out their views on the budget Bill. He said that it is important for citizens to participate in the budget process and local council officials should encourage citizens to participate so as to have a responsive budget. Also, when he was contributing on internal national debt and its increasing rate he said that it’s not a good sign for economic growth of the country. According to him, the Government should borrow money when it’s necessary for the development projects and not otherwise as well as monitoring how the money is spent.
While concluding the discussion, the chairperson of the committee Hon Dr. Limbu thanked Policy Forum for its contribution to the committee; saying that it’s through Policy Forum and other networks the views of the citizens are represented, encouraging the spirit of collaboration with the Parliamentary Budget Committee to continue.
Initial feedback on the Budget Bill which has been approved indicates that some of the proposed inputs have been accommodated in the Bill. One worth taking note of is in regard to the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office. This marks one the major achievements for Policy Forum because the struggle for this dates more than six years back when the discussion over the need for its establishment between started CSOs and the MPs.