Members of Parliament (MPs) are demanding implementation of their 2008 request to have their fuel allowances pegged at 500 litres a month.
The MPs also want all their arrears dating back to 2009 when the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s regime challenged the legislators’ demands in court.
Backbenchers agreed this at a meeting Thursday at Parliament building where they also appointed a task force to pursue the matter with parliamentary leadership.
The task force includes Edwin Banda of Malawi Congress Party, Nick Masebo of Democratic Progressive Party, Anderson Undani of People’s Party and Mahamudu Lali of United Democratic Front.
But calculated at the present petrol pump price of K704.30, it means each MP will be getting a fuel allowance of K352 150 translating to K4 225 800 per year per MP.
Multiplied by the current 193 MPs for four years’ arrears at the 2013 costs, the total becomes K3 262 317 600.
The money is enough to buy over 11 840 metric tonnes of fertiliser for some 117 333 poor farmers.
If the whole amount is paid this year, the total would slightly be below the K3.5 billion National Assembly budget, according to the 2012/13 fiscal year figures. This figure could be reduced slightly if treasury considers excluding ex-Cabinet ministers who are usually entitled to ministerial fuel allowance.
The same can buy 6 400 000 children doses of the malaria drug LA or 2 461 538 LA adult doses at a local private pharmacy in the capital Lilongwe.
In an interview on Friday, treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya said they would only respond when MPs formally present their demands, but he acknowledged that the current National Assembly budget may not suffice.
The MPs are basing their arguments on the 2008 conditions of service determined by the Parliamentary Services Commission (PSC) which by law is not mandated to determine MPs perks.
According to the National Assembly Emoluments Act, only the President can determine and gazette perks for MPs.
Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda, government lawyer then, argued that PSC is only mandated to determine perks of the National Assembly staff and not MPs “because the law provides for separation of powers”.
In 2009, Judge Chikopa ruled in favour of MPs, but the ruling was stayed pending an appeal hearing which has not been heard.
By then, MPs were being represented in the case by Ralph Kasambara of Ralph and Arnolds.
When President Joyce Banda took up the reins of power last year, making Kasambara both Justice Minister and Attorney General, his chambers through Nyirenda, wanted the case withdrawn. The Supreme Court rebuffed the idea.
By implication, the withdrawal would have meant that MPs start getting their 500 litres of fuel per month.
Nyirenda refused to comment on why he wanted to withdraw the case only saying: “The case is still in court as far as I know.”
The figure being demanded was not included in the 2012/13 National Assembly budget although it was there in 2008 and 2009 budget.
When called on Thursday, Masebo did not want to explain the matter while the rest could not be reached.
But several other MPs confirmed the matter was expected to be presented to Leader of the House Henry Phoya on Friday.
Phoya had not been officially approached by 13 hours on Friday, thus he said: “I can only comment on the matter when they formally present the issues for government’s attention.”