Malawi has become a crime scene where high ranking officials exonerating criminals as “saints”. A new twist to the Bill Smuggling saga has emerged with Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani Hara exonerating Pastor Martin Thom and Nations Msowoya who were arrested over suspicion that they smuggled a Loan Authorisation Bill of 2021.
It were suspected the intent was to fast-track the process of tabling , discussing and passing of the bill to allow the Government of Malawi, through the Ministry of Homeland Security, to borrow K93 billion from Baroda Bank of India for the construction of 10, 000 residential houses for our respective security agencies.
However, the mysterious presence of the Bill on the Order Paper of the parliamentary deliberations caused controversy in the august House, with the Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa implicating Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda as having some knowledge about the smuggling of the Loan Authorisation Bill 22 of 2021 into Parliament.
Thom was arrested alongside the Ministry of Finance’s Acting Director of Debt and Aid, Nations Msowoya.
But on November 8, 2021, Gotani Hara clarified in the National Assembly that all procedures were followed when bringing the Bill into the House.
She cited Standing Orders; 46 (1) and 126, which talks about the placement of Business on the Order Paper and the requirement for a waiver of motion for tabling bills should be amended.
The Speaker of Parliament was responding to an assertion by the Mzimba North lawmaker, Yeremia Chihana, who persistently talked about the smuggled Bill in parliament.
“I just wanted to remind Honourable member of Parliament for Mzimba North that as an honourable member, if you continue to mislead the country that a Bill was smuggled, I already said in terms of our own procedures of parliament, there is nothing amiss. The people who send bills to parliament are people who send bills to parliament from the Ministry of Justice. If you read our own Standing Order 46, it’s the Clerk of Parliament who puts business on the Order Paper.
“That whole procedure was done! Nothing wrong because if you are talking of smuggling, it means you have taken something illegally to one place. So, in terms of procedure for parliament, every procedure that is supposed to be there was properly followed. The bill was gazetted, the bill was published. It was signed by the Attorney General. So, in terms of procedure for parliament, we had done what we should do as parliament. So, it’s wrong for you to be misleading this parliament,” she explained.
Amid the controversy, President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera fired Thom, who was hitherto his Executive Assistant and Special Advisor on Church and Religious Affairs.
The firing came barely a few hours after the police in Lilongwe arrested and charged Pastor Thom and a few others for authoring the bill. They remain on bail and fired from duty.
Few weeks ago, it was made clear and emphasized in the chambers that nothing was amiss and no foul play took place. The bill entered into the parliament under normal and approved protocols, due diligence was followed.
Last week, the Business and Finance Committee of Parliament told a local radio that that nobody smuggled the bill and that every process was well followed.
On the other hand, Hara said the Malawi Parliament has resolved to meet and propose a review of Standing Orders 126 and 46(1), respectively, in order to improve on the current procedures for handling bills in Parliament.
“I wish to inform the House that the Business Committee resolved that, from now onwards, the 28-days’ notice on bills should be strictly followed and that waivers on the rule should not be entertained,” she said.
Thom refused to comment on the matter.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :