Cashgate: CSOs press JB to summon Parliament over forensic audit report

Just a few days after Civil Society Organisations under the umbrella of Grand Coalition expressed concern over government’s continued failure to call for Parliament meeting, two leading non-governmental human rights institutions in Malawi, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (CEDEP) have added their voice to the call for an immediate meeting of Parliament.

The two groups want the legislatures to deliberate the “yet-to-be-released” cash-gate forensic audit report and the Public Accounts Committee’s report on the same.

In a joint statement issued today 18th February 2014 in Lilongwe, the two rights groups hold that the scale of crisis generated by the cash-gate scandal would be enough reason for the Legislature to meet and deliberate the resultant forensic report and possibly find a lasting solution to the looting of public resources.

CHRR'S Mtambo co-signed the statement
CHRR’S Mtambo co-signed the statement

“There is a lot a part from the Cash-gate hullaballoo that has taken place on the country’s governance land space to merit the meeting of Parliament. Reports of the Executive using the revised national budget (following aid suspension by donors) without the approval of Parliament are some of the hanging issues Malawians expect answers from,” reads the statement co-signed by Timothy Mtambo CHRR Executive Director and Gift Trapence CEDEP Executive Director.

The two human rights institutions warn the government of Malawi to stop the observed “histrionics” on serious matters on national concern.

“For once, this histrionics on government matters must stop. Malawians should not be taken as a docile lot of citizens hapless enough to swallow any piece of hypocrisy from the Executive on an issue as serious as the cash-gate scandal. We, at CHRR and CEDEP would like to reiterate that the billions of kwacha lost to the scandal are for Malawians, as such, the last thing government would do is circumvent the crisis through, among others, failure to quickly summon Parliament to deliberate the same”

The Leader of the House Henry Phoya is on record to have told the local media a few days ago that President Joyce Banda might discuss with the Speaker of National Assembly Henry Chimunthu Banda if it is possible to convene parliament amidst widespread calls from various quarters to summon an emergency meeting for Parliament where two reports –one from the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament(PAC) and another from the external forensic audit – are supposed to be presented ahead of the May 20 2014.

However, CHRR and CEDEP observe that government is playing hide and seek games as reflected in the recent reports that Parliament may convene in April 2014 – just a few days before the elections.

“We, at CHRR and CEDEP, fear that Parliament may not meet in April, as government and other quarters would like Malawians to believe. Our fears are not from without. It has now become abundantly apparent that government is up to some hide-and-seek games on the necessity of Parliamentary meeting over cash-gate forensic and PAC reports.

“The continual and, oftentimes, needless shifting of dates for releasing the forensic report (whose Executive Summary got sent to IMF weeks ago) bespeaks the suspicious manner in which government is handling the whole saga”

The two rights groups further question  the relevance and practicality of calling parliament in April – describing such a proposed move as “incredible at best and questionable at worst”.

Argue Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence: “Section 67 (1) of the Republican Constitution is very explicit: ‘The National Assembly shall stand dissolved on the 20th of March in the fifth year after its election, and the polling day for the general elections for the next National Assembly shall be the Tuesday in the third week of May that year. This, therefore, questions the legality of the Parliamentary meeting in April.  Of course, we are cognisant of the fact that Section 67 (4) mandates the President to call for Parliament in the event of “a constitutional crisis’ or, when ‘the emergency has risen.”

The added:“It is tempting to categorise the cash-gate forensic report ‘an emergency’ with the meaning of the aforementioned section. However, looking at the political behaviour hijacking the whole saga, it is highly unlikely the President may for call for Parliamentary meeting, not even in April. The April date may simply be a well calculated move by the President to buy time till May 20. However, even in the event that such a meeting were to be possible, it would be quite a waste of an official campaign time for parliamentarians and Presidential candidates.”

CHRR and CEDEP finally appeal to the President, in consultation with the speaker to summon Parliament meeting as a matter of urgency.

“Let Parliament meet as a matter of urgency so that the nation knows the truth on cash-gate before May, 20. At least, this is what transparent and accountable governance is all about. We are not asking for too much all we are demanding is justice!!!” concludes Mtambo and Trapence.

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