Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday forced Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe to defer the K9.4 billion ($13.2 million) vote for the National Assembly after demanding an additional funding of K3 billion ($4.2 million).
Funding for Parliament meetings has been contentious with the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), which runs the secretariat alongside the Clerk of Parliament (CoP), being accused of abusing funds allocated for oversight activities.
It was clear that MPs would rally together on the vote because a few could be heard clearing their throats as Gondwe introduced the vote during Committee of Supply.
Zomba Changalume MP John Chikalimba (People’s Party-PP) suggested the increase to K12 billion ($16.8 million) to allow Parliament carry out its oversight functions.
In his financial plan, Gondwe has allocated K1 billion ($1.4 million) to committee meetings and K3.8 billion ($5.4 million) to plenary meetings.
Said Chikalimba: “The budget has just provided for two meetings for Budget and Finance Committee and only four for Public Accounts Committee. If the government insists on not giving us this money, then we will not meet.”
However, Chikalimba did not give a justification for proposing the K3 billion increase to the vote.
But he seemed to have gotten the figure from the cluster committee meetings when officials from the Parliament Secretariat were taken to task for the reduced allocation.
Nkhotakota North East MP Everson Makowa Mwale (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said a comparison of the allocation to Parliament and State Residences would give Malawians a picture of the government’s priorities.
State Residences has been allocated K5.3 billion while Parliament has been given K5 billion for committee and plenary meetings.
But Gondwe said not all committees deserved to meet more than twice a year, but cautiously avoided comparing the Budget and Finance Committee with another one.
He said: “If it is a question of equity, Public Accounts Committee and other committees cannot be given the same amount of resources.”
When MPs refused to relent with chairperson of the Women’s Caucus, Jessie Kabwila, demanding to know which committees Gondwe felt did not deserve more resources, the minister announced that the vote would be deferred to allow further discussions with Parliament Secretariat.
By close of business yesterday, the House had approved 10 of the 50 votes with over one hour spent on the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development allocations where there was hot debate over chiefs’ honoraria.