BILL WATCH 55/2013
[6th November 2013]
The National Assembly is Sitting This Week
The Next Sitting of the Senate is on 19th November
AU Election Observer Mission Report on 31st July Elections
The AU Election Observer Mission’s 27-page final report on the harmonised elections has become available. It concludes that the elections were “professionally and successfully conducted” by the ZEC, but significantly does not say that the elections were free or fair or credible. It offers nine recommendations to help address some of the shortcomings identified by the mission, and expresses hopes for a ”sustained post-election dialogue to continue to address any outstanding matters pertaining to the 2013 Harmonized Elections”. [Full report available at address at end of bulletin]
Delay in Presentation of the 2014 Budget
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning has said he will not be ready to present next year’s Budget this month, but that it will be presented in either December or January. He was speaking to Parliamentarians attending last week’s Pre-Budget Seminar at the Victoria Falls.
As the Minister pointed out, the Constitution permits the presentation of the Budget to the National Assembly after the beginning of the financial year [which is on 1st January], on condition it is presented no later than 31st January. Section 305(2) states that “the estimates of revenue and expenditure must be presented to the National Assembly before or not later than thirty days after the start of each financial year”. A January presentation is also in compliance with section 28(1) of the Public Finance Management Act.
Given adequate revenue inflow, the Government will not be without funding if the country does enter 2014 without a Budget having been approved by the National Assembly. Both the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act provide a special procedure for provisional withdrawals from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, for a maximum of three months, pending the Appropriation Act for 2014 that will result from approval of the Budget when it is eventually presented.
Income Tax Act
Parliament has received the final print of the Income Tax Bill. It must now be sent to the President for his assent nd signature and subsequent gazetting as an Act under section 131 of the new Constitution, which also provides that:
• the Speaker must give public notice of the date on which the Bill was sent to the President and
• when the Bill is presented to the President, he must, within 21 days, either assent to it and sign it and have it published in the Government Gazette “without delay”, or refer it back to Parliament for reconsideration.
Note: The obligation to give public notice of the date on which a Bill is sent to the President for assent and signature is new. It was not in the former Constitution. Under the former system public ignorance about when Bills had been sent to the President frequently caused unnecessary speculation as to whether or not the President had dealt with a Bill within the 21-day limit, particularly in cases when there was a long delay between the final Parliamentary vote and gazetting as an Act. Such speculation should now be put to rest.
No Bills on Parliamentary Agenda The Bills situation at Parliament remains unchanged. There are no Bills on the agenda for the next sittings of the Houses, and no Bills have been sent to the Government Printer to be printed for presentation in Parliament.
Bills being prepared News continues to surface, however, of Bills under preparation. Bill Watch 54/2013 of 29th October gave the Micro Insurance Bill and Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill as examples. Now the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning has said that the Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill will be ready by February next year.
Bills to align existing laws with the new Constitution There has been no further information on the work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed to oversee the preparation by Ministries of Bills to bring all existing laws into line with the new Constitution [see Bill Watch 54/2013 of 29th October]. Motions in both Houses are keeping this issue alive.
Government Gazettes of 28th October and 1st November
Income Tax Act See above.
Electricity Amendment Act Bill Watch 54/2013 of 29M October referred to doubts over whether the Act was validly assented to and signed by the President. There have been no further developments.
Statutory Instruments [SIs]
Collective bargaining agreements There are three agreements, for: the battery manufacturing industry [SI 152]; the chemicals and fertilisers manufacturing industry [SI 153]; and the plastic manufacturing industry [SI 154].
NSSA workers’ compensation scheme SI 155 sets out the new employers’ assessment rates to come into effect on 1st January 2014.
General Notices [GNs]
Licences for local commercial radio stations GN 511/2013 of 28th November, in the name of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe [BAZ], invites applications for 25 “free to air” local commercial radio broadcasting service licences. The deadline for submission of applications is 7th January 2014. The initial application fee is $2 500, but applicants short-listed for public inquiry will have to pay a further $7 500. The basic licence fee is $50 000, and a licence is for ten years. [GN available at address at end of bulletin.] Application forms can be collected from BAZ in the grounds of the Rainbow Towers, Harare or downloaded from www.baz.co.zw Contact telephone numbers for BAZ are 04-797381-85. [A separate Bill Watch bulletin will outline the procedure laid down by Broadcasting Services Act for dealing with such applications, including the public inquiry requirement; the qualifications for licensees; the obligations of licensees, including prohibited content, availing airtime to Government, use of indigenous languages, etc.]
Land Acquisition Act: Compensation Committee GN 512 of 1st November announces the appointment of new members of the Compensation Committee for the period 1st October 2013 to 30th September 2016. There are eleven members, including the chairperson Mrs Sophia Tsvakwe, who is the Permanent Secretary for Lands and Rural Resettlement. [GN available at address at end of bulletin.]
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