Constitutional Court freezes government’s budget bill

The government’s budget bill for the 2014 fiscal year is expected to be delayed now that the Constitutional Court had agreed yesterday to accept separate petitions by senators and opposition MPs accusing the government of violating the constitution during the scrutiny process.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittirat Na Ranong said the budget bill was expected to be delayed after the Constitutional Court accepted for hearing petitions from senators and opposition MPs.

The senators and Democrats  inquired  about the constitutionality of the bill when the  government and the House budget scrutiny committee did not invite representatives of the three independent organizations  to clarify their needs for additional budget. Such practices were a violation of the charter.

The bill has passed three readings in Parliament but was not yet forwarded to His Majesty the King for endorsement pending complaints questioning its constitutionality are cleared.

Kittirat said some investment projects using budget from the 2004 fiscal year could not be kicked off in time and  might be delayed from the petitions acceptance.

The government’s 2014 fiscal year is to start October 1 when the 2013 fiscal  year ends September 30. But the government has already extended the 2013 fiscal year to end December 31.

Kittirat, however, said that for normal wages, salaries and other public utility expenses, they still could be reimbursed as usual.

He said that now instruction has been given to all government agencies with their investment projects to speed up papers on terms of reference so that bidding could be called and implementation could take off immediately once the bill passed.

A group of 40 senators and opposition Democrat MPs separately asked the Constitutional Court to rule whether the House budget scrutiny committee violating the constitution or not when it did not invite the three organizations, namely the offices of the Judiciary, the Administrative Court, and the National Anti Corruption Commission, to clarify their proposed budgets. Instead, the commission slashed their proposed budgets unilaterally without asking for their explanation of the need of increased budgets. Moreover, they said in the administration procedure when the proposed budgets of these organizations were forwarded to the Cabinet,   these organizations were not given opportunities to give explanation on why they have to secure more budget. Instead, the Cabinet slashed their proposed amount unilaterally.

The Constitutional Court invited representatives from the three independent organizations and the chairman of the budget scrutiny commission to testify in court on October2.