THE East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has finally reconsidered and approved 22.6tri/-(97.6m US dollar) as East African Community (EAC) Budget Estimates for the Financial Year 2020/21.
The lawmakers approved the estimates at a virtual meeting held here on Wednesday.
Under the vote, the EAC Secretariat which is the executive Organ of the Community is set to receive 11tri/-(48.4m US dollar) while the community’s legislative arm will pocket 3.8tri/-(16,755,725m US dollar).
Through the distribution, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) is expected to receive 920bn/-(39m US dollar) while 1.9tri/-(83m US dollar) is earmarked for the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC).
The lawmakers further approved 356bn/-(1.5m US dollar) for the activities of the East African Science and Technology Commission.
Other EAC institutions and their approvals in parenthesis include the East African Kiswahili Commission (1,399,318 US dollar), the East African Health Research Commission (1,879,600 US dollar) the East African Competition Authority (1,128,240 US dollar), the Inter-University Council for East Africa (10,977,276 US dollar) and the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (3,077,934 US dollar).
Of the total approved budget, the Assembly reallocated 120bn/-(518,050 US dollar) to other activities considered pertinent to the integration agenda, given the available resources.
The Subsequent passage of the EAC Budget now puts to an end the prolonged process which commenced in September 2020.
In September 2020, the legislative arm enacted the EAC Appropriation Bill, 2020, appropriating a total sum of 24tri/-(104m US dollar) for EAC Organs and Institutions.
Such a move raised eyebrows on Partner States on the variation of the budget estimates, necessitating the return of the said piece of legislation to the House.
The House adjourned in December 2020, before reconsideration of the EAC Appropriation Bill 2020.
The 2020/21 EAC Budget is anchored on the Budget Speech themed “Stimulating the economy to safeguard livelihoods, jobs, businesses and industrial recovery” initially presented to EALA by the Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers and State Minister for EAC, Republic of Rwanda, Prof Nshuti Manasseh.
According to the Chair of Council of Ministers, the 22.6tri/- budget is presented at a time the EAC region as well as the globe, continues to reel from the effects of Covid-19 pandemic which has resulted to costly lockdowns and a slowdown in economic activities.
On the other hand, a debate which was interrupted last year on the report of the Committee on General Purpose on the reconsideration of the Bill, resumed today.
The report recommends among other things, the need for the reallocation of funds to reinstate the activities of the Secretariat, additional funding for EALA plenary sessions and extra days for Court Sessions among other things.
It also states that during the process of reconsideration of the Bill, the Committee on General Purpose among others, interacted with the Chair, Council of Ministers, reviewed the Budget Estimates and the attendant report of the Assembly and made reference to the relevant provisions of the EAC Treaty and the EAC Budget Act 2008.
Kenyan lawmaker Kennedy Kalonzo argued that it was said it was necessary for the report to be passed and Budget appropriated to the Community to move forward.
The youthful legislator implored Council of Ministers to do what is humanely possible, in the coming Financial Year to ensure the upcoming budget 2021/2022, is presented to the House in good time.
He said it was the sole responsibility of the Assembly to pass the Community’s budget as per various tenets of the Treaty (article 132(2) and the EAC Budget Act 2008.
“It is on this basis that the Committee on General Purpose scrutinised the budget, taking in to consideration the positive attributes and feasible aspects of the Budget”, the legislator maintained.
His Tanzanian counterpart, Maryam Ussi observed that consensus making was the hallmark of the integration process, adding that the council of Ministers had given direction on the ceiling of the budget.