A report on the revised Standing Orders outlining a motion to summon the President to Parliament has not been debated in the House since it was tabled in February last year.
Delays to bring a report for debate has prompted the Legal Affairs Committee of the House to allege that the government fears that if adopted, loopholes to summon the President to face members of Parliament (MPs) will have been sealed.
However, the government rubbished these claims and committed to put the matter on the table during the next meeting of Parliament.
The report of the Legal Affairs Committee on Review of the Standing Orders tabled on February 9 2017 has been appearing on the Order Paper since last year.
Some MPs claimed the Standing Orders should be adopted by the next Parliament of 2019 to 2024 but the Legal Affairs Committee chairperson Maxwell Thyolera said there was an agreement between the two sides of the House that they should be tested during this Parliament.
“The Standing Orders that we are using now have a lot of challenges simply because they were not tested. We noticed cross-referencing problems which could have been detected early had that happened,” he said.
Thyolera said despite the one-year lapse, Parliament was committed to adopting the Standing Orders.
“We are banking on debate taking place in the June meeting then if adopted, they can be tested in the November meeting because it is unlikely the Mid-Year Budget Meeting will take place in February, 2019,” Thyolera said.
On his part, Leader of House Kondwani Nankhumwa ruled out debate on the Standing Orders taking place before Parliament rises next week Friday, citing a lot of business among them bills such as the Electoral Commission (amendment) Bill.
He said the government was expecting a brief on observations on the Standing Orders by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs before giving the report a day for debate.
“During the last meeting, it was not possible because there was no time and we had equally crucial business as the government. The report might be discussed during the budget meeting,” said Nankhumwa.
He said the government would welcome proposals to clearly state the circumstances under which the President would appear before Parliament.
Several administrations, especially the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have shot down attempts to call President Peter Mutharika to adhere to sections 89 (4) and 89 (3) arguing that the questions to the ministers are sufficient.
According to the proposed SO 68, questions to the President would be taken on a Wednesday for 90 minutes.
To allow order in the procedure, a maximum of five supplementary questions on the original question would be allowed.
Other Parliaments like South Africa and England allow for questions to the President or Prime Minister but Malawi has not implemented the constitutional provision for many years. n