'Speaker's action not against rules' - Counselor General

Counselor General of the Parliament Ms. Fathmath Filza has stated that the Speaker acted within his rights in sending the supplementary budget proposed by the government directly to the relevant committee for evaluation instead of opening it up for debate.

When a budget is proposed, the Finance Minster usually attends the parliament to share details regarding the budget, after which the lawmakers debate on the proposed budget before sending it to the budget committee for further research.

However, during Sunday's parliamentary sitting, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed made the decision to send the budget directly to the committee foregoing the debate, stating that it is not against parliament rules to do so.

During the first budget committee meeting held on Sunday to evaluate the budget, some members pointed out that lawmakers should have been given the opportunity to debate on the proposed budget. After Maradhoo MP Ibrahim Shareef proposed to send back the budget to the parliament floor, the committee made the decision to seek the Counselor General's opinion on the matter.

Speaking at the budget committee, Filza said the Parliament Act's Article 179 refers to the national budget for the upcoming year. However, the proposed budget in question is seeking supplementary funds under the Public Finance Act.

Filza said while due procedure has been followed in submitting supplementary budgets thus far, the Finance Ministry sent a document to the Parliament, and the rules do not specify what action has to be taken under such circumstance, nor has such a document been submitted in the past. Therefore, the decision was made under the power vested in the Speaker of the parliament, said Filza.

"The Speaker made the decision to find a way [to approve the budget] expeditiously due to the Majlis going on break soon. It was found that a document had been submitted [by the ministry], to send the budget directly to the committee for evaluation and then granting the opportunity for lawmakers to debate on the budget after taking it back to the parliament floor. If needed, the Finance Minister will then be summoned to answer questions regarding the proposed budget.", said Filza in her legal opinion.

"Therefore, I am unable to state that [Nasheed's action] is against the rules", she added.

The government has submitted a supplementary budget of MVR 1.7 million for parliament approval. Speaker Nasheed has made the decision to work on the budget on Sunday and Monday, and approve the budget by Monday night.