The Appropriation Bill, which contains the 2016/17 budget appropriation, has been the focus of controversy in parliament since it was first tabled by Minister of Finance Mark Brown on Friday last week.
The opposition was strongly against the second reading of the bill, but it was later put before the committee of supply for debate on allocations to the various ministries before it was passed without any amendments yesterday.
The opposition cried foul on the basis that it had not been given the mandatory 10 days to debate the budget effectively.
However, parliament clerk John Tangi clarified parliament had sat enough days to satisfy the legal requirements.
He said in parliamentary terms, four hours of sitting equated to a day, and MPs had sat for 30 hours debating the budget this week.
The opposition also challenged procedures for tabling the Appropriation Bill, citing the MFEM Act which states, “Except as otherwise provided by a resolution of the Parliament, the first Appropriation Bill relating to a financial year shall be introduced into the Parliament before the end of the first month after the commencement of that financial year.”
With the financial year ending at the end of this month, the opposition argued that the bill should have been presented before the House next month.
The Transport Amendment Bill, which makes it compulsory for motorists aged from 16 to 25 years to wear approved helmets while driving, also saw the light of day.
In his closing remarks before the motion on the bill was passed, deputy prime minister and Transport minister Teariki Heather said the responsible authorities had held wide consultations before the amendments had been articulated.
He said statistics showed the victims of most fatal motorcycle crashes were in that age group.
Heather said amendments to the Transport Act 1996 were underway to fix loopholes that had been raised during the debate of the bill.
Meanwhile opposition leader Teina Bishop, who will later this month step down from the post as per the contract he signed when he took over the leadership role, thanked parliamentarians and wished them the best for the future. His case before the Cook Islands High Court will be heard next month.
Parliament is expected to meet again in August on a date to be set by prime minister Henry Puna.