The Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament has made several amendment proposals to the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act 2003 in a bid to strengthen the committee’s oversight role in the national budget cycle.
Ministry of Finance is currently reviewing the PFM Act to conform to emerging issues in public finance management.
In an interview last week, the committee’s chairperson Gladys Ganda said they want the Bill to make provisions for ensuring that suggestions by the Budget and Finance Committee and cluster committees on budgetary allocations should be incorporated in the final estimates.
She said in the event that the suggestions are not incorporated, explanations should be provided in a response document to be shared with Parliament before moving to the vote by vote approval process.
Ganda said: “We want the Bill to include a clause on timely submission of loan authorisation bills to give Parliament enough time to analyse the financial and budgetary implications of the bill and also to include a clause for government to submit progress reports on the loan authorisation bills for transparency and accountability.
“The Bill will also include a provision that allows Parliament to debate and approve revenue and debt projections in proposed annual government budgets and mid-year budget reviews. As it stands, Parliament is only mandated to approve aggregated vote by vote expenditure projections for ministries, departments and agencies.”
She said borrowing a leaf from the Uganda Budget Act, the Bill stipulates that any other Bill should be accompanied by its indicative financial implications on revenue and expenditure over a certain period.
In an interview, Secretary to the Treasury Chauncy Simwaka confirmed that preparations for the tabling of the Bill in Parliament were at an advanced stage.
He said: “All pieces of legislation after a period of time need to be reviewed to suit the environment. The Act has been in force for a while and it needed to be reviewed to suit the current environment.
“The Bill is now in the hands of the drafters at Ministry of Justice, but I can confirm that we consulted widely on the Bill.”
The current PFM Act was passed in 2003 and was amended in 2006, 2010 and 2018.
But despite the modifications, several corruption and abuse of public funds scandals still occurred on its watch, including Cashgate, the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill exposed in 2013.
Former secretary to the Treasury Ronald Mangani, who is associate professor of economics at the University of Malawi, said the law was due for such review as there was no watertight law.
“Every piece of legislation after a period of time needs review,” he said.