Poor attendance of MPs in the parliament session nearly derailed approval of the budget proposals tabled by Minister of State in the President's Office, Public Service and Management, Hawa Ghasia in the august house here yesterday.
Job Ndugai, who chaired the session, was forced to alert the legislators who were outside the chamber to return in five minutes’ time, to facilitate endorsement of her estimates.
This happened after the Simanjiro MP, Christopher Olesendeka, sought the chairman’s direction on whether it would be right for such few MPs to approve the ministerial budget, or suspend the matter until the next session. This prompted Ndugai to order that a bell be rung to summon the MPs to the chamber , and they responded.
The parliament thereafter approved the estimated Sh307, 984,613,000 that the minister had requested for the 2010/2011 financial year.
Few parliamentarians were in the house in the morning when Ghasia tabled budget estimates for the ministry, and their number dwindled further around the time she was about to wind up.
During the debate, only two members of CCM took the flour against five opposition counterparts, though quite a number made their contributions in writing.
Ghasia told the parliament that the government will spend Sh2.332 trillion in the 2010/2011 to pay salary arrears to public servants, and facilitate new employment as well as promotions. She told legislators that the government plans to employ 49,593 workers with priority areas being in education, agriculture and health sectors. Some 64,404 civil servants at different levels will be promoted in the next fiscal year. However the minister noted that salaries will increase in accordance with agreements reached in joint committees.
The minister told parliament that by the end of May 2010, the government had paid salary and other benefits arreara amounted to Sh 34,381,059,688 to some 45,864 workers.
Ghasia said some of the achievements of the government in improving the lives of civil servants include increment of the minimum wage from Sh 65,000 in 2005/2006 to Sh 104,000 in 2009/2010.
Listing the set priorities in the next financial year, the minister said the government through the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) will investigate some 2,258 pending cases.
The bureau, according to Ghasia, currently has 399 corruption in court but will this year work hard in disclosing corrupt practices before and during elections and its processes.
“PCCB will also conduct research on corruption activities in the police force, courts, agriculture sector and local government authorities to reveal causes of the vice in those sectors,” said Ghasia.
On the Property and Business Formalisation Programme (TPBP) also known as MKURABITA, she said the government will review the law that allows registration of land, adding that plans were underway to formally register plots of land in villages within 20 districts in the mainland.
The opposition camp blamed the government on failure to increase the minimum wages for servants, saying the current wages were too minimal.
Reading views of the opposition, Special Seats MP, Grace Kiwelu (Chadema), said following increased revenue collection, the government should increase the minimum wage to Sh350,000 per month.
“European countries give what is known as ‘scala mobile’ and government need to consider increasing public servants wages depending on the economic growth of the country,” she said.
She said an increase from the opposition’s last year’s proposal of Sh315, 000 per month to Sh350,000 can help reduce hardships faced government employees.
The opposition wanted explanations regarding money embezzled by a certain civil servant in the form of house rent. She said the Controller and Auditor General (CAG)’s last report revealed that a civil servant was paid Sh 13,299,400.
According to Kiwelu, the government employee who lives in a government house was paid the stated amount in house allowance. Another Sh 282,453,350 was, according to the legislator, was paid for hotel accommodation while the participant had been paid per diem.
The Opposition camp also took issue with the presidential revolving fund, terming it daylight robbery. They argue that the fund was meant to relieve Tanzanians from difficult lives but had instead turned out to be burdensome due to high interest rates.
She said they charge about 2.5 percent monthly interest, which in a year’s time turns to 30 percent, adding that this was almost twice the 15.2 percent interest rate charged by banks.
But responding to the question, the minister said the revolving fund is funded by sources other than tax payer’s money.
The opposition also blamed the government for failure to give explanations on the purchase of the radar, and updates on the issue, which the minister however, failed to respond to.