The Transitional National Legislative Assembly has finally passed the long-awaited fiscal year budget for 2019/2020.
The 208 billion South Sudanese Pounds budget was passed in its fourth and final reading on Wednesday after a whole-day deliberation by the MPs in Juba.
The Minister of Finance presented the budget a month late on June 20th to angry parliamentarians who refused to debate the budget unless the Salvatore Garang paid off accrued arrears and over four months’ salaries to civil servants across the country.
The parliament again failed to debate and pass the budget to the next reading two weeks ago after some MPs criticized the committee on economics for failing to subject it to a public hearing as required by law.
The parliamentarians met at the Freedom Hall and endorsed the new Appropriation bill and all the timelines for the new financial year.
The debate was moderated by the speaker, Honorable Anthony Lino Makana.
“Is the motion seconded…do we pass it…pass?” Makana asked the weary MPs who have sat for the deliberation since 11 am.
“Yes!” the MPs answer in unison.
“Ok, thank you very much. So both the appropriation bill for the fiscal year 2019/2020 and schedules are all passed in total,” Makana concluded with applause from the August house.
South Sudan’s Financial Year covers 12 months, which runs from 1st of July to 30th June each year.
The budget is by law supposed to be submitted to the Assembly by not later than the 15th May of each financial year.
One Minister who has received a lot of heat over this year’s budget is Salvatore Garang. From being denied the chance to present the budget in its first reading, to being threatened with a vote of no confidence, Salvatore faced pressure from MPs that accused him of budgetary irregularities.
A week ago, the parliament said they would impeach the minister over what it called budgetary discipline.
They said they noted several anomalies, including lack of budgetary discipline by the ministry of finance, continued borrowing without the authority of the national legislature.
Other observations show that the ministry does not submit reports on loans, quarterly and bi-annually reports on budget expenditure.
It said the ministry also under-funds audit chamber and anti-corruption commission, leading to no audited accounts of the national budgets for the last three years.
Speaking to the press after the budget was endorsed, Salvatore Garang said the delay was necessary to avoid any loopholes in the budget.
“It should have been effective on the 1st of July, but the budget is a process, you cannot hurry with it –otherwise you will make so many mistakes that will be worse than not to be patient until when it is passed,” Salvatore said.
Wednesday passage of the budget to the President for signature may come as a relief for Salvatore who will now have to take into account all the recommendations made by the MPs, including timely payment of salaries, funding of crucial accountability agencies.