Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting was cancelled due to a lack of quorum. Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla, who presided over the sitting, did not disclose the number of parliamentarians in attendance, but highlighted the inability to meet the required quorum despite ringing the bell for the sitting. 

The cancellation has sparked further debate as it came at a time when the supplementary budget for the current year, submitted by the government, was slated for discussion.

Ali Azim, the parliamentary group leader of the Democrats and MP for Central Henveiru, has raised alarms over the legality of the government’s proposed supplementary budget of MVR 6.5 billion. In a letter to Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, Azim asserted that the budget falls foul of constitutional norms and laws surrounding the budgetary process.

“The supplementary budget was prepared and presented not in accordance with the rules set out in the law,” Azim stated, referring to Article 32(e) of the Public Finance Act. He noted that crucial details were absent in the budget documentation, including prior-year expenditures and revenues, as well as specific allocations for programmes under the Housing and Finance Ministries.

Azim also pointed out that the government failed to include a required report on the economic and financial impact of the upcoming budgets. He emphasised the importance of such details to ensure that the year’s budget aligns with constitutional standards.

“If the supplementary budget sent by the Finance [Ministry] is presented to the Parliament, [it] will become a space for a bad habit to start and be repeated,” warned Azim, adding that the budget “cannot be submitted to the Parliament unless it is prepared in accordance with the laws referred to.”

The government’s supplementary budget primarily focused on increasing expenditure in multiple sectors. For subsidies, an additional MVR 1.8 billion was allocated. For national health insurance, an extra MVR 1.2 billion was earmarked while Public Sector Investment Projects (PSIP) were set to receive a boost with an additional MVR 1.7 billion.

While a parliamentary sitting was successfully conducted on Monday, the inability to meet the quorum has been a recurring issue in recent months, causing several sittings to be adjourned and rescheduled. This has resulted in a backlog of important legislative work in parliament.