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Budget delay could cripple government: Motanyane

Bereng Mpaki

IT will soon be legally impossible for the government to continue drawing funds for its operations for its operations from the consolidated revenue fund if parliament does not approve the 2020/21 budget by the end of next month, the speaker of parliament, Sephiri Motanyane, has warned.

Mr Motanyane said the budget had to passed without further delays or else civil servants would not be paid their salaries next month.

He made the remarks yesterday in parliament after some legislators who were last week appointed to cabinet post requested more time to familiarise themselves with the budgets estimates for their new ministries.

Mr Motanyane gave them up to today to study the budget estimates so that the debates and voting would proceed without further delay. He said parliament would go on a winter break and it was therefore important to approve the budget before then.

“I received a request from the new ministers to give them time to go and study the budgets of their respective ministries so that they will be able to articulate them before the house,” Mr Motanyane said.

“I want to bring to your attention that we are facing big challenges…

“If the budget is not approved by the end of June 2020, no one will be paid and no projects will be implemented because there will be no money. I urge that we speed up the budget approval process. On that note let us go back and study the budgets and the house will reconvene tomorrow (today) at 9am.”

Former Finance minister Moeketsi Majoro first presented the budget speech in parliament on 26 February 2020. But it could not be passed after then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane prorogued parliament on 20 March 2020 on the grounds of stopping large gatherings as part of the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The prorogation was nullified late last month by the Constitutional Court but a vote on the budget was further delayed on 6 May 2020. This after Dr Majoro requested to make some amendments to cater for the Covid-19 response which had not been factored in when the estimates were initially proposed in February.

Shortly, afterwards the Thomas Thabane regime collapsed on 11 May 2020 and parliament was adjourned for a week to facilitate the formation of the new Majoro-led All Basotho Convention and Democratic Congress coalition.

The current financial year started on 1 April 2020 and due to the delays in approving the budget, the government has had to use public funds based on Section 113 of the constitution which allows a third of the budget estimates to be drawn from the consolidated fund for a maximum of four months before the budget is approved.

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