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The government laid the third finance bill for fiscal year 2019 before the Senate on Wednesday, after it was tabled in National Assembly, amidst walkout by joint opposition members who protested over the absence of finance minister Asad Umar. Soon after the State Minister for Revenue Hammad Azhar presented the Finance Supplementary (Second Amendment) Bill 2019, Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani adjourned the House due to lack of quorum after the opposition walked out of the House.
The Chair referred the supplementary finance bill to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance for its recommendation and to report back to the House within seven days.
He directed the lawmakers to give their proposals on the bill by Friday. The Senate, after its approval will forward the recommendations to National Assembly as Senate has no powers to pass a money bill.
As the state minister for revenue stood from his seat to present the supplementary finance bill, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani questioned why the finance minister failed to come up in the House to present order of the day in his name.
"Perhaps the minister takes this as his insult (to come to the Senate) despite his presence in the building (Parliament)," he said, adding that he laid the finance bill just two minutes ago in the National Assembly which is across this hall. "Why are there chains in the feet of the minister," he said.
Rabbani explained that Clause 6 of Article 90 of the Constitution, which says that the "Cabinet, together with the Ministers of State, shall be collectively responsible to the Senate and the National Assembly," does not come into play in this case. "Because, it applies only when either minister is not present or cannot perform his duties," he added.
Referring to the Rule 25 of the Rules of Business, he said that the minister or state minister or the adviser to the PM in whose name the business stands shall remain in the Senate till disposal of business of the ministry concerned or division. Quoting the 10th Edition Black's Law Dictionary, he said that responsibility means answerability or accountability.
He said that the third budget in a single fiscal year is also violation of Article 160 of the Constitution because new taxes are being levied but these are not being distributed through the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, which has been violated thrice in a single fiscal year
Opposition Leader in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq objected that annual budget is presented once a year under the Article 80 of the Constitution and these never-ending mini-budgets are causing instability in the country.
"Neither the government has any idea about the economy nor the taxpayer has any clue what's happening in this country," he said, adding, "It looks there is a lack of vision."
"The opposition wanted the finance minister to come in the House and know the feelings of the House. We are not in favour that a mini-budget be laid before the House through the state minister," he said.
Leader of the House Shibli Faraz said that the minister could not come because he is not feeling well. He said that state minister could lay the money bill before the House under the Constitution and if he is not allowed then it will be travesty of Constitution and rules.
The chairman Senate ruled that under Article 73, the money bill could not be stopped from laying before the House and under the Article 90, regarding collective responsibility of cabinet, the state minister or any minister can present the bill. As the state minister laid the money bill, the opposition walked out of the house.
Earlier, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman pointed out the controversy regarding award of over Rs 300 billion contract for construction of Mohmand Dam to the firm of Advisor to the PM on Commerce and Textile Abdul Razak Dawood and termed it a classic case of conflict of interest. She said that Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules had been violated by giving the award to a single bidder.
Federal Minister for Water Faisal Vawda, however, said under rules it was not a single bidding. He said 28 parties had obtained tender documents and five of them submitted the same.
He said the contract has not yet been awarded and only the financial bid has been opened. He, however, said that there is no other option except for awarding the contract to the minister's firm by claiming that the delay caused by re-bidding would only escalate the cost. He said only two companies which left before the opening of technical bids would come in the re-bidding, adding others did not have the capacity.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019


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