In the National Assembly: Amended 2020 budget | 01 April 2020
LDS questions legality of procedure
- Revised budget presentation postponed to April 7
A revised budget requiring the National Assembly’s approval for extra sums of money to cater for the unexpected expenses related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) that was to be presented to the house yesterday morning has been postponed to April 7.
This came after the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) members voted against the procedures to allow for the revised budget to be presented and debated. LDS members Jany de Letourdie and Bernard Georges abstained on the vote. The other members voted 13 in favour and 15 against on the motion tabled by leader the government business Charles De Commarmond asking the National Assembly to suspend the seven days required before the second reading of the motion of the Appropriation Amendment Bill.
The no vote followed a disagreement between Speaker Nicholas Prea and the LDS on the interpretation of Article 154 of the Constitution on the issue of a revised budget.
The leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Wavel Ramkalawan, through a matter of privilege at the start of yesterday’s sitting, informed Speaker Prea that there is an issue in the procedure to allow the revised budget to go through, a point which he had already raised in a session last week.
He questioned the legality of the procedure under which the government is asking the National Assembly through an Appropriation Amendment Bill 2020 to amend the Appropriation Act 2020 to allow for the revised budget to be presented, noting that it was not the right procedure according to Article 154 of the Constitution which addresses all matters related to the country’s finances but makes no provisions for a revised budget.
He went on to stress that Article 154 specifically gives two possibilities for government to ask for a supplementary budget and this is when it needs extra money and if it has already spent money that had not been budgeted there again it has to bring a supplementary budget to regularise these expenses.
Mr Ramkalawan further stressed that the Appropriation Act is addressed in a special and specific manner under Article 154 of the Constitution and therefore in the case where government is tabling a Bill to amend the Appropriation Act, it has to be carefully analysed and properly addressed.
While he agrees and understands that the country is in a difficult situation where government urgently needs to raise money it does not have, Mr Ramkalawan stressed that it only has to present a supplementary budget like Article 154 provides.
He later stressed in an interview with the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) that if government wants to amend the Article 154 to include this provision this will be a matter that should be addressed later following the right procedure to ensure it is clear for everybody.
Meanwhile, Speaker Prea said he had sought legal advice from different people after Mr Ramkalawan presented the same argument last week. He affirmed that the final decision from Attorney General Frank Ally is that neither the Constitution nor any laws have been breached.
“While it is true that Article 154 addresses finances of the country, it is silent on certain matters and a revised budget is one of them and it only provides for supplementary budgets but it does not say that we cannot amend the Appropriation Act and the Attorney General has stated that in doing so we are not going against the Constitution. An Act is an Act and can always be amended along the way,” Speaker Prea pointed out. He stressed that he stands by the advice of the Attorney General who advises both the executive and the legislative.
Calls to Speaker Prea’s office late yesterday afternoon remained unanswered while a brief communiqué from the National Assembly confirmed the adjournment of assembly proceedings.
Meanwhile, Mr Ramkalawan also told the SBC later in the afternoon that the LDS will maintain its decision and would seek the views of the Constitutional Court on the interpretation of the procedure.
In the meantime discussion and approval of the revised budget is delayed by a week.