Parliament has vowed to recover allowances of legislators who abscond from sittings without valid reasons.
Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya yesterday communicated that chairpersons of parliamentary committees and the Business Committee—which comprises the leadership of political parties on both sides of the House—have made the resolution.
Members of Parliament (MPs) get K40 000 per day as subsistence allowance and K10 000 sitting allowance which is paid out before the meeting starts.
Abscondment of meetings became more rampant during the 10-day cluster committee period to scrutinise the proposed 2016/17 National Budget after Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe tabled the financial plan in Parliament on May 27 2016.
During the cluster meetings, a committee which should have had close to 40 members as a cluster could have less than half on a given day.
The House has always been at pains on how to penalise absconding MPs who claim allowances, but do not show up for proceedings because the Standing Orders do not expressly indicate the process.
An attempt to mete out punishment through paying back allowances by the former Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda in the 2009 to 2014 Parliament was met with resistance.
But in his announcement yesterday, Msowoya said that rampant absenteeism had been noted among MPs, a development that was not in line with the representative democracy ideal.
He added that absenteeism was also denting the image of Parliament in the eyes of the public.
Said the Speaker: “In view of this observation, the Committee of Chairs supported by the leaders of political parties represented in the Business Committee, resolved that with immediate effect, the office should recover the allowances from members who do not attend the plenary and committee meetings without leave of absence or without valid reasons as required by Standing Order 41.”
The Speaker and Parliament Secretariat have failed to act on the errant MPs even though Standing Orders 41 (3) states: “A member who is absent without seeking leave of absence shall forfeit all allowances during the period of absence.”
The Speaker can grant leave of absence, according to Standing Orders 206 (3), on the two grounds of illness or family emergency to enable an MP attend to public business locally or abroad.
But several MPs described the new directive as a non-starter because it would not get the support of the whole House.
The seat of an MP can only be vacated if the member is absent without leave from the Speaker for three successive meetings of the assembly, according to Standing Order 206 (4).