Some civil society organisations (CSOs) on Thursday petitioned Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya calling for a reversal of the recent adjustment to legislators’ daily upkeep and sitting allowances.
Led by the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), the CSOs described the decision by members of Parliament (MPs) to raise their daily sitting allowance from K60 000 to K80 000 as selfish, urging the Parliamentary Service Commission to reverse.
In the petition, the CSOs state that the adjustment was not in the best interest of Malawians, some of whom, such as primary school teachers “are paid far much less in a month compared to what the parliamentarians get in a day”.
They also accuse MPs of absenteeism during parliamentary meetings, saying most MPs “draw allowances for doing nothing”.
Reads in part the petition: “While agreeing to the need for MPs to have better conditions of services, we are… aware that most MPs receive this allowance without even attending parliamentary proceedings as the money is already credited to their account. This means that our MPs draw allowances for doing nothing. This is theft and must stop.”
The CSOs further note that the legislators already enjoy several benefits, including a monthly salary of over K1 million and a K24 million interest-free loan for the purchase of motor vehicles.
“We strongly feel this quest for better living must not only be limited to MPs but the entire citizenry and working population of Malawi. In light of the above, we believe the Malawi National Assembly, the Government, and the Parliamentary Service Commission will heed our call not to implement the upward adjustment of the allowances at this point in time when most Malawians are suffering.”
Receiving the petition on behalf of Parliament, Kasungu West legislator Alex Meja (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) could not hint on what course of action the House would take on the petition, arguing he was just a messenger.
Meja, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Social Welfare, told the inquisitive members of the press that Parliament was a house of records, and that set procedures were not to be flouted at any cost.
He said: “I’m just getting the petition now, and that means I have not read it yet. Furthermore, they are procedures such queries follow and I’m sure the office of the Speaker and its related committees are well placed to decide on the way forward. I comment no further.”
Alongside HRCC, the petition was endorsed by Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), Forum for National Development (FND), Professional Women’s Network (Prownet), Counselling of the Adolescent and Youth Organisation (Cayo) and Appause Youth Organisation, among others.
In an interview, HRCC chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba said the CSOs would seek a way forward should Parliament fail to act on the petition.
He said: “The issue is not to have the decision rescinded in this sitting, per se. It was to send the message that Malawians won’t just watch without condemning such impunities and selfish desires by our parliamentarians. Accountability and transparency are key principles of good governance.
“As CSOs we will ensure to stand for the people and will take all necessary actions to ensure that the voice and views of the citizens are considered.”
However, some drama preceded the presentation of the petition when a police officer told the waiting petitioners outside Parliament Building that no one would receive the petition.
But later, Parliament contacted Mkwezalamba that it was sending Meja to receive the petition.