By T. Roble
The Lower House heavily amended the Public Finance Management Act stripping the Upper House of any role in the national budget process and accountability of public officials and went ahead to submit to President Mohamed Farmaajo for assent contrary to parliamentary drafting procedures.
In what could rekindle old sibling rivalries between the two chambers of the Federal Parliament, Senate speaker Abdi Hashi has filed protest letter addressed to President Farmaajo, chairman of the high court among other senior state officials noting the PFMA assented to by Farmaajo on December 26 is not the one passed by the Senate.
In Hashi’s interpretation, the President was ‘duped’ into appending his signature on a law which is a product of a ‘flawed and illegitimate procedure’. The two chambers had maintained a love-hate relationship in the first two years of this term over legislative powers. A meeting last year between the leadership of the two houses toned down the differences with the agreement that the budget process will be inclusive of both chambers.
Article 82 and 83 of the Provisional Constitution provides clarity on roles by both Houses in regards to draft laws. For purposes of this dispute, article 82 (4) applies. The Senate accuses the Lower House of mutilating its amended version of the Bill and sending it to the president for assent contrary to procedure.
Sub-article 4 provides two options for the Lower House when it receives an amended draft law from the Senate. Option one is to accept the changes and submit the law to the president for assent. If not contended, the Lower House can reject and overrule the Senate’s decision with 2/3 majority vote of the total membership of the house (275) and subsequently transmit it to the president for assent.
However, in his letter dated August 1, Senate Speaker Hashi laments his opposite in the Lower House offended the constitution and went ahead to submit the law for assent.
Senate locked out
A read through the 27 articles which the Senate says the Lower House amended without notification outlines a deliberate move by the Lower House to universally arrogate itself powers in the budget process, oversight, and accountability. It’s noteworthy the Senate is created for the purposes of among others acting as the guarantor of the Federal Member States and protecting the federalism project. It, therefore, follows the Senate without doubt must be involved in the budget process since it involves the interests of the FMS.
For example, article 2 (b) from the Senate version reads thus: All members of the Executive will be accountable to the two Houses of the Federal Parliament and they will have to account for the management of public funds. The version signed by President Farmaajo unilaterally amended by the Lower House reads: All members of the Executive will be accountable to the Lower House and they will have to account for the management of public funds.
Similarly, on submission of the national budget and the supplementary budget captured in articles 3(22) and 3(19) respectively, the final version strikes out the role of the Senate.
In effect, therefore, the PFMA which was hailed by among others the international community as critical in the prudent management of public finance largely leaves out the oversight role of the Senate of public institutions including on critical budget-making decisions.
Below is a list of some of the articles noted by the Senate Speaker.