By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
14 January 2014
As the MPs met this week to discuss the 2014 budget, the speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda accused the legislators of swindling the government of large sums of money by overstating allowances owed to them.
According to a Southern Eye report, Mudenda made these accusations Monday as he officially opened the Parliamentary post-budget seminar in Harare.
The report said Mudenda lamented the prevalence of corruption in the country and asked how the MPs hoped to stop it when ‘they themselves engage in it’ by overstating the distance they travel on Parliamentary business. Mudenda attributed the large sums owed to the MPs in allowances to this alleged form of corruption.
Bulawayo Agenda Executive Director, Thabani Nyoni, said while the public was concerned about corruption in high places, it was necessary for the public to be more informed before taking a stand on the issue.
Nyoni urged both the government and the MPs to clarify the legislators’ entitlements so that the people would make their decisions.
He said: “We do not want to feel that the speaker’s word may be more authentic and more truthful because now it is his word against the MPs’. So we expect clarity on the MPs’ entitlements and on the government’s commitment as well.”
He added: “We need a culture where leaders make commitments and fulfill them and not turn around to politicize issues based on populist arguments.”
Nyoni also urged the MPs to be more open to the public with regards their entitlements so that the public would judge them correctly and fairly.
The accusations against the MPs come a month after Parliament adjourned to the end of January 2014 due to lack of funds. At the time SW Radio Africa reported that Parliament owed legislators previous parliamentary allowances ranging between $10, 000 to $20,000 each. On top of that Parliament was said to be struggling to settle hotel bills of more than $750,000.
Two years ago 20 MPs were found to have abused the Constituency Development Fund but only three were arrested and charged with misappropriation of the funds meant to benefit constituency projects. Their prosecution was stopped following the intervention of the Attorney-General Johannes Tomana’s office.
Mudenda, however, decried the fact that the 2014 budget allocated Parliament only $ 24 million instead of the requested $ 35 million.
MPs are expected to spend this week in intensive meetings in preparation for the debate on the budget which commences on January 21st, when Parliament resumes.
Tuesday saw the start of four day portfolio committee meetings to analyze the budget. Each committee is expected to present a report on the budget as it affects the ministry that it oversees to the National Assembly which resumes next week.
On its opening next week Parliament is also expected to pass the Finance bills that will operationalize the $ 4,1 billion budget presented by finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in December 2013.