Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) has trashed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) report findings into allegations that two deputy speakers, Esther Mcheka-Chilenje and Clement Chiwaya, were fraudulently collecting housing allowances despite living in their own houses.
ACB submitted the report to Parliament last week and faulted Speaker Richard Msowoya and Parliament secretariat for authorising the two deputy speakers to collect the allowances.
The report further highlighted that the Speaker’s K750 000 (about $1 100) monthly housing allowance as well as those of his two deputies were not approved by Parliament.
But the commission’s spokesperson Vitus Dzoole-Mwale said in an interview Monday the report was rejected and sent back to ACB because it had numerous gaps which needed to be clarified before action could be taken.
He said: “As a commission, we did examine the report last Friday and we discovered that there were a lot of gaps which ACB needs to clarify to Parliament. So, we have sent it back to them but we have provided more information so that they rework the report.”
Dzoole-Mwale specifically cited the issue of house rentals and housing allowances which he said needed more clarity.
However, ACB deputy director general Reyneck Matemba yesterday said they were yet to receive feedback from Parliament.
“We haven’t received the report yet, maybe it will find us later,” said Matemba.
Dzoole-Mwale said the commission had not given ACB a time frame to re-submit the report because there are several issues the bureau needs to clarify.
“We are mindful that investigations take time to finish but we wished they could expedite the process because the matter has already taken long,” he said.
Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya were allegedly drawing K300 000 (about $450) on top of their monthly housing allowances of K250 000 each they are entitled to when living in their own houses.
But social and human rights commentators have urged Parliament to handle the matter with caution.
“It’s not right to send the report back without clearly pointing out those gaps. Much as we appreciate that the Speaker may have a conflict of interest in the matter, we believe he is capable of acting in the interest of justice,” said Timothy Mtambo, executive director of Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR).
On his part, social and human rights advocate Billy Mayaya said he hoped the rules of natural justice would prevail in the matter and that the report is given attention in an open and transparent manner.
“Certainly, the commission has a duty to act in an objective manner without seemingly appearing to be shielding any person or persons within its rank and file.
“The Speaker must rise above partiality to his officers and act in a manner befitting his office,” he said.
The housing allowance scam was exposed last year by our sister paper Weekend Nation. The revelations drew public outrage, with opposition members of Parliament (MPs) calling for the deputy Speakers’ dismissal.
However, the two deputies obtained a court injunction restraining Parliament from firing them. Chilenje is an independent from Nsanje while Chiwaya won on United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket in Mangochi.
The Speaker is also the chairperson of Parliamentary Service Commission