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MPs debate new revenue bill, lambast Zuma for ‘undermining budget process’

The Division of Revenue Amendment Bill contains the new funding allocations for national, provincial and local government tabled by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba last month.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

CAPE TOWN - President Jacob Zuma’s been accused in Parliament of undermining the budget process.

Debating the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill on Monday afternoon, opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) flagged the sudden resignation of Treasury’s budget office head, Michael Sachs, and claimed Zuma was treating public funds as if they came “from his own pocket”.

The Division of Revenue Amendment Bill contains the new funding allocations for national, provincial and local government tabled by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba during his medium-term budget policy statement last month.

The Economic Freedom Fighters won’t support the bill, with MP Thembinkosi Rawula saying it would be like giving the African National Congress (ANC) permission to “continue looting the public purse” without regard for “sound and practical budgeting”.

“The ANC in Parliament has clearly demonstrated it does not respect value or is interested in following the processes of the PFMA, sound and practical budgeting, instead, Mr Zuma does as he pleases without consequences.

"He treats our tax money as if it was his own pocket, where he just takes… without consequences.”

The Democratic Alliance (DA)'s David Maynier accused the president of turning the budget process into “a bowl of spaghetti” amid a fiscal crisis and causing the resignation of Sachs.

“The fact is his resignation is a huge blow to National Treasury – and confirms our fears that decision-making about budget priorities, and indeed the budget itself, have now been centralised under President Jacob Zuma.”

ANC MPs insisted Treasury is still in charge and that qualified people remain.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Deputy Finance Minister Sifiso Buthelezi has dismissed suggestions that Treasury’s head of budget quit his job because of interference in the budget process as “conspiracy theories”.

The abrupt resignation of Sachs was raised during debate on the division of revenue amendment bill in the national assembly Tuesday afternoon.

Opposition MPs accused Zuma of turning the budget process into “a bowl of spaghetti” amid a fiscal crisis.

Buthelezi has hit back at opposition party claims that National Treasury’s been reduced to book-keeping under President Zuma, sparking the decision by Sachs, to resign.

“There are a lot of theories and conspiracy theories which are being flighted, which have got no basis whatsoever, about the resignation of Mr Sachs.”

Earlier, the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa asked who would take responsibility if things went wrong, Treasury or the Presidency.

“Minister Malusi Gigaba has been rendered absolutely useless and it tells us exactly why the reshuffle was done because a yes-man was required for the job”

Buthelezi responded: “The national budget process is a collective process driven by various divisions in the National Treasury”.

He says there are teams at Treasury which will continue Sach’s work.

The DA and EFF walked out in a bid to collapse the quorum but the bill passed by 210 votes to four with the support of other smaller parties.

There was one abstention.

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