Opposition Stage a Walkout

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek Members of the opposition in the National Assembly yesterday staged a walkout in protest against the second reading of the Additional Appropriation Bill. The opposition members led by the Congress of Democrats President, Ben Ulenga, walked out soon after Ulenga made his contribution to the Bill and thus were not present when parliament approved the Bill. Ulenga said it was an unpleasant fact that parliament should be forced once again to rubberstamp a unilateral decision by cabinet. Ulenga said as elected representatives, the MPs in April 2006 approved the 2006/07 Budget and that was an act of commitment to fiscal discipline amongst other things. “Turning around scarcely five months later to change the figures we committed ourselves to is an almost dishonorable way of going back on our collective word.” Ulenga argued the size of Cabinet makes Parliament ineffective in terms of parliamentary accountability by ministers and deputy ministers. “How can 41 people be made to account to 72 people, when the 41 are in themselves already a majority?” He said Cabinet has been taking the country and the nation for a ride and it is now time that the flagrant disregard of the checks and balances as enshrined in the Constitution be halted. “Why does Minister Saara Kuugongwelwa-Amadhila at all bring the Additional Appropriation Bill to the House, when it already passed in Cabinet?” The CoD President also accused the Finance Minister of casting a smokescreen by stating in her motion that it is a “redistribution of already appropriated funds” in order for her to smuggle in the additional appropriation of N$132.6 million. “I am not convinced there was need to appropriate for a second time monies already appropriated in this year’s budget – these smokes and mirrors fail to convince.” Ulenga also questioned the “global additional allocation of N$132 million” and said as early as the last financial year the government already was aware of the demands from the medical aid scheme. The CoD president claimed that the overriding issue to the Swapo Party government is that the Swapo Youth League owns the medical aid scheme. In her response the Minister of Finance said the Additional Budget was necessitated by the fact that government did not anticipate then that the government would generate additional revenue and also did not expect the level of expenditure especially by the medical aid. She said the size of the Cabinet must be determined by the amount of work that needs to be done and not its size in relation to the size of Parliament.