The budget appropriation Bill 2018-19, which would supersede the budget appropriation Act 2018-19 passed by the last Parliament could be unconstitutional, according to National Council.
This was because of the time lapse between the fiscal year and the 12th Plan. The previous government’s tenure ate into the first fiscal year of the 12th Plan and completion of the electoral process consumed half of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Consequently, during the 11th session of the second Parliament, an interim budget of Nu 36.3B was passed. Herein, capital expenditure of Nu 5.3 was approved for the first six months of the 12th Plan (July 1 to December 31, 2018) and current expenditure of Nu 29B was approved for the whole fiscal year.
The new budget for 2018-19 is Nu 47.69B including the previously approved current expenditure and an additional Nu 11B capital expenditure for the remaining six months of the fiscal year (January 1 – June 30, 2019).
While deliberating the annual budget at the National Council yesterday, eminent member Karma Tshering said the whole purpose of coming up with the new budget is to get approval for capital expenditure required for remaining six months of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Since the passing of the new budget replaces the previous one, the previous budget for 2018-19 is deemed null and void.
“If the previously passed budget is declared null and void, capital expenditure of Nu 5.3B becomes illegal,”he said since the new budget proposes capital expenditure for only six months and the current expenditure for the whole year is already passed last year.
He also cited Article 4, section 3 of the Constitution that states – public money shall not be drawn from the consolidated fund except through appropriation in accordance with the law.
“What kind of law would make the already apportioned or spent capital expenditure in the last six months legal because the previous budget would stand null and void?” he said.
Finance minister Namgay Tshering who presented the budget at the National Council said that the 2018-19 budget is a unique budget since two governments have worked on it.
He clarified that the new budget comprises of Nu 36B interim budget, including the capital expenditure of Nu 5.3B and more than Nu 29B current expenditure, which was passed by the last Parliament. The government, he said added another Nu 11B capitql expenditure for the period January to June this year.
However the budget report stated that authorisation for the capital budget expired on December 31, 2018 and accordingly, the capital budget for the period January-June, 2019 is submitted as Budget Appropriation Bill for consideration.
The new capital budget for six months includes provision for ongoing activities, new activities and flagship programs based on the priorities of the 12th Plan.
The National Council in its recommendation reminded the government the provisions of the Constitution and suggested that the new budget be allowed to provision only the capital expenditure of January to June, this year, instead of outlining the whole budget.
The house passed the budget.