The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has passed a resolution urging the Council of Ministers to find a common stance on partner states funding deficit by having it on the agenda of next month’s EAC Summit.
In a heated debate on Thursday, MPs partly heaped blame on the Council, including the chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Dr Susan Kolimba, of Tanzania, for not doing enough to ensure member states meet their financial obligations-which “has completely disrupted activities of the Community.”
“You cannot even be able to say that you have commitment for integration when you look at these figures. Are we really serious about integration? All partner states have arrears,” said MP Nancy Abisai (Kenya), the mover of the motion.
EALA further urged the Council of Ministers to urgently convene a meeting to present a united front on EAC funding.
For the current fiscal year, $41.8 million was approved as the budget of EAC organs and institutions to be funded by equal contributions from partner states.
The budget caters for the EAC Secretariat, the Assembly, the East AfricanCourt of Justice, and others including the newly established Kiswahili Commission, and the Science and Technology Commission.
However, only $18.6 million (44.51 per cent) has been remitted to the EAC accounts as at the last quarter of the financial year.
The Council of Ministers previously resolved that all countries should fully have paid up by December 30 every financial year to enable the Community to function and operate smoothly.
Members even have arrears for the 2016/17 financial year budget in which each partner state is required to pay $8,378,108.
The lawmakers called for establishment of a select committee to probe why countries are not paying up and to invoke Article 143 of the EAC Treaty.
The clause states that a partner state which defaults in meeting its financial and other obligations under this Treaty will be subject to such action as the summit may on the recommendation of the Council, determine.
Even though all the countries have not fully remitted, lawmakers were particularly more concerned with Burundi which has not contributed a coin to this financial year’s budget, yet still with arrears for the previous year amounting to $771,037.
The Assembly further wants the Council to look into avenues that will comprehensively address the issue.
The recurring problem has not only disrupted activities of the Community but also led to: non-payment of entitled allowances; non-payment of service providers; delayed payment of personnel emoluments; and is causing persistent accumulation of debts, among others.
During Thursday’s sitting, Dr Kolimba noted, “We know the constraint and strain in partner states but they are trying. Ministers are reporting back and that is why they are here.”
At the end of the third Assembly’s last sitting in Kigali, Uganda’s minister of state for EAC affairs, Julius Maganda, told Saturday Times that his country will do whatever it takes to pay up its outstanding balance.
Maganda stressed that east Africans need to understand that most EAC countries operate their calendar and fiscal year at different times.
“One of the things we need to do is to align the financial year of the partner states with that of the Secretariat so that we don’t have these variations. I believe that out of the deliberations that the House has undertaken, partner states are going to have their payments made before we sit for the next Assembly in May,” Maganda said.
“We have to encourage the ministers to take this back to their ministers of finance and also to encourage each and every person to take this as a priority so that the integration process does not in any way collapse just because of funding.”
François Kanimba, Rwanda’s minister in charge of EAC affairs, who also attended the final session, told Saturday Times that “we pay on a quarterly basis” and that by end March 2017, “we may have covered three quarters of our contribution.”
“Yes, there is a problem because there are significant delays,” Kanimba admitted when asked how it came to the point where EALA members refer to the current situation as a crisis.