Members of Parliament (MPs) in Malawi are demanding a whooping K2 billion (about US$5,600,000) from Government as fuel allowance arrears dating back to May 2009, threatening they will sabotage government business if their demand is ignored. Each MP’s demand would be close to K10 million.
The MPs are currently attending the 44th midterm budget review sitting of Parliament, which President Joyce Banda officially opened on Friday, February 8, 2013 at the New Parliament Building in the capital, Lilongwe.
The lawmakers from both sides of the isle in the Chamber, with the exception of cabinet ministers, met in Lilongwe on Thursday, February 15, 2013, and agreed that they “push government” to pay all MPs money for 500 litres of fuel per MP as the proposed and agreed monthly allocation dating back from May 2009.
They, through a taskforce chaired by Chitipa North legislator, Nick Masebo, intend to “petition” the government on Friday, morning February 16, 2013, according to a member of the committee, and that should government turn down the demand, they will boycott parliamentary sitting on Monday, February 19.
Other members of the taskforce, according to the MP, who spoke to Nyasa Times on strict demand for anonymity, are Balaka South MP, George Mnesa of MAFUNDE; Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Nkhota Kota Central legislator Edwin Banda and the governing People’s Party (PP) Zomba Malosa MP, Anderson Undani.
In an interview with Nyasa Times on Thursday evening, MP Masebo defended the MPs’ demand, but denied chairing a ‘taskforce’. He said he rather chairs the Parliamentary Public Appointments Committee (PAC).
“As PAC, we look at MPs conditions of service and that the 500 litres allocation for each MPs was arrived at considering what our colleagues in the Executive arm and the judiciary are entitled to. We felt as MPs, we deserve reasonable fuel allowance to meet the enormous demands of our job, especially at the constituency level,” said the MP, adding that the issue is beyond his committee as the recommendations were passed on to the Parliamentary Service Commission, which endorsed it.
However, Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) Executive Director, Dalitso Kubalasa, said while there may have been an agreement in 2009 that MPs would be allocated such litres of fuel per month or the equivalent money, the timing of the MPs demand is wrong as the nation has a lot of urgent challenges to deal with.
“There are issues of drug shortages in most of the hospitals; government is operating under strict economic austerity conditions; and generally the Joyce Banda administration is already under pressure to mitigate the effects of the floatation of the Kwacha. I, personally, think that as leaders or servants of the people, the MPs should have held on until the economy stabilized,” said Kubalasa.
Former MP for Thyolo North and Minister under the Bakili Muluzi government, Phillip Bwanali said as much as he agreed with the MPs as regards the demands of their work, this was not the right time to make “obscene demands from a government that already has a plateful of economic challenges to deal with”.
“MPs are supposed to be servants of the people; it does not make good sense when they demand lots of money for themselves and their families when the people that elected them have to endure economic hardships with hope for a better future,” said Bwanali.
Senior Chief Likongwe of Neno said it was an insult to ordinary Malawians for the MPs to make such “weird demands when we all know that it is not this government that is responsible for the non-implementation of whatever proposals made far back in 2009”.
Information Minister and government spokesperson could not pick up his phone when Nyasa Times attempted to seek his comment on Thursday evening.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :