SOLICITOR General Abraham Mwansa has submitted to the Constitutional Court that there hasn’t been any failure, neglect or refusal by the Finance Minister to obtain prior approval from Parliament before approving and signing any debt agreements, as the law requiring the same hasn’t been enacted.
The State has therefore denied claims that in the current scheme of the law, prior approval of the National Assembly is required before local or foreign debt may be contracted by government.
This is a matter in which former Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Dipak Patel has petitioned the Constitutional Court over government’s failure to obtain prior approval from Parliament before approving and signing any debt agreements.
Patel has cited the Minister of Finance and Attorney General as first and second respondents, seeking a declaration that the respondents’ failure to present all loans contracted and sought to be contracted on behalf of government which constitutes public debt to the National Assembly for prior approval, is in breach of the Constitution.
He also wants an order compelling the respondents to present to Parliament, within 14 days of the Judgment of the Court or within such other timeframe that the court may prescribe, a full and complete statement of the state of public debt contracted from 2016 to date including the terms and conditions of the loans.
But in a response filed yesterday, the State argued that there had been no failure or refusal by the respondents to obtain prior approval from the National Assembly as the law requiring the same had not yet been effected.
It added that Patel wasn’t entitled to the reliefs sought and further asked the court to dismiss his petition with costs.
The State argued that section 21 of the Constitution of Zambia Act no 1 of 2016 entails that where an Act of Parliament is required to give effect to an article of the Constitution such as article 63 clause (2)(c) and (d) and article 207 clause (1) and (2) the article shall come into effect upon the publication of the Act of Parliament.
It added that the State did not need to present any bill for debate in Parliament for purposes of obtaining approval before procurement of a debt.
The State stated that the proper and correct legislation required and in use for purposes of procuring loans by government was the Loans and Guarantee (Authorization) Act Chapter 366 of the Laws of Zambia.
“This is until the provisions of the Constitution referred to above come into effect through an Act of Parliament. The Minister of Finance must proceed legally until Article 207 clause (1) and (2) of the Constitution, which must be read in tandem with Article 63 clause (2)(c) and (d) is given effect through an act of Parliament” it stated.
The State submitted that Section 3 and 7 of the Loans and Guarantees (Authorization) Act Chapter 366 of the Laws of Zambia does not require government to obtain any form of approval from the National Assembly as was being claimed.