On the 19th of January the Portfolio Committee of the Ministry of Education congregated to make a post 2017 Budget analysis of their allocation. However, it would appear as though most Portfolio Committee meetings that day were closed to the public serve for them informing most civic society members that they were open on the day before. it would appear as though Parliament processes are now playing some kind of cat and mouse game with the public as their website had unequivocally stated that the series of post budget analysis meeting would be held on the 19th but upon arrival of civic society members were informed that those meetings happened the day before. Anyway, one of the open meetings was that of the Ministry of Education and after close review of what transpired in the meeting you cant help but put two and two together as to why these meetings have all of a sudden become closed to the public.
During the Portfolio Committee meeting so many alarming issues were raised by the always controversial newly elected member of Parliament , Norton incumbent Honorable Temba Mliswa. The first port of call was that as committee members they were expected to rubber stamp the budget of 2017 yet how the allocations of 2016 went is unclear.”Why are we passing this budget without a quarterly review? We do not know how the money allocated to the ministry of education was spent in the previous year!” he alarmed.
The Clerk insisted that the concern has been raised and try through writing was registered to the Ministry by the Portfolio Committee. The Norton MP questioned why they were expected to pass a report that they have failed to discharge their constitutional mandate of exercising their oversight role if indeed a quarterly review report has not been provided. Quarterly reviews by Ministries are a constitutional requirement but of late the ministry of education failed to give one and this makes it difficult for Portfolio Committee Members to just proceed without one.
The MP’s bone of contention was that they can not just pass the budget as proper procedure needs to be followed by getting the quarterly review first so that they know how they spent the last budget allocation. “Ungape munhu mari usingazivi kuti change yashanda sei” said the MP.
Honourable Mandipaka spoke in contradistinction by pointing out that nothing was done by the Ministry but the onus was on the committee to make a follow up to the Ministry once they had realized that the Ministry was unresponsive .They too are equally culpable as the Portfolio Committee. The Clerk insisted that as a Committee they had written to the Ministry to remind them they have to observe their Constitutional mandate but got no response.
Honorable Mliswa in response to Honorable Mandipaka said “why should we pass this when they have no respect for us,but chedu kupasa nekusayina haah ini andipo pakusiyina. I will stand up in Parliament on a point of order and highlight that they did not come and report to us and i am not part of this, whoever is part of this its fine , i will be on record that i am not going to sign zvinhu zvisina basa.” He even went on to highlight that in the first place the Committee is not funded well but they are expected to fund Ministers who are failing to do their jobs.
Another alarming issue that was raised is that in the Minister of Finance budget statement it has been made clear that this year he may not come back even for the midterm fiscal review. Committee members were worried that him not coming back to report to Parliament would then render the Portfolio Committee members as mere sitting doves. In fact it was revealed that the Minister of Finance will come back in march of 2018 imagine.
As a result one member of the Committee questioned “So what is our business, when do we put an input, when do we have the onus of showing oversight if this is the case??” Thus, the committee being expected to be a mere rubber stamp of nonsense.
The Chairman to the meeting noted that concern and insisted that Clerk has jotted it down because exercising the oversight role is very important and they cant do that when Ministers are failing to provide documents as basic as quarterly reviews and are failing to respond when called upon to do so. It was raised that last year Honorable Minister Makhosini Hlongwane said that they had sat down with the Committee and introduced the education policy when he had not done so. The Chair says they will write strongly as they can not be seen to pass the budget if the Ministers do not comply with their requirements as a Committee.
However,the meeting then deteriorated to becoming volatile when the Chair said that they have to vote on whether they should proceed or not with the report before them despite the non responsiveness of the Ministry and they have to move forward. But MP Mliswa interjected and said that they can not surely vote on something that is constitutionally provided for. Why should they vote when the Constitution is clear on its expectations in their discharge of duty. It was then a back and forth war of words to a point that Honourable Temba gave in to his temperament and stormed out of the meeting.
It would appear as though things are not going accordingly in these meetings hence the need to exclude the public from the chaos to save face most probably. And also to give the impression that all is well in Parliament when in fact its the opposite.