Barely days after President Peter Mutharika demanded accountability from members of Parliament (MPs), Speaker Richard Msowoya has ordered Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to investigate legislators suspected of abusing the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
The Speaker ordered the House committee, which provides oversight functions to government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), to work with the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to ensure that the report and names of legislators named in the abuse of CDF is presented in the National Assembly before the current meeting adjourns.
Said the Speaker: “I am making an order for PAC to join hands with the Auditor General and the Ministry of Finance to make sure that the report on CDF abuse be brought to the House before the House rises.”
The Speaker’s reaction came after the President, in his opening address to the 47th Session of Parliament last Friday under the theme Rising Above Macroeconomic Stability, challenged MPs to be accountable in the same manner they push MDAs to account for public funds.
Said Mutharika: “My government has been accountable to the people of Malawi through you [MPs]. We are always accountable to Parliament. But are you accountable to government and the people who voted for you?
“As we say in Latin, quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Put it this way, who watches the watchers? Who is holding accountable the MPs who hold us accountable in this House?”
The President specifically mentioned the abuse of CDF by some legislators, saying some MPs abuse the funds of the people, but stand in the National Assembly accusing government of corruption.
He said: “Something is tragic with a democracy in which those who think are watchdogs also think they must be accountable to no one. In any human society, in any democracy, no institution must be accountable to no one.”
Yesterday, Mwanza Central MP Davis Katsonga (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP), in his contribution to Mutharika’s address, echoed the President’s sentiments on accountability and demanded action from the Speaker.
He said: “There is a report from the Auditor General that 20 MPs abused CDF. Despite that information being available, Parliament is quiet. Even the President noted this. If something has gone wrong, we should be the first people [as legislators] to say so, not just being quiet.”
The issue of 20 MPs abusing about K80 million out of K3 billion CDF and District Development Fund (DDF) allocation to 16 district councils came to light in June this year when Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe told Parliament that at least 20 MPs risked possible arrest and prosecution.
In July, Parliament’s PAC, through its chairperson Alekeni Menyani, defended the legislators and instead pushed the blame on district commissioners (DCs). The committee said the DCs, as controlling officers at district level, were expected to explain how the money went missing.
Menyani is on record as having said “the MPs have no case to answer” but the DCs as controlling officers.
In an interview later, the Speaker said other arms of the government will have to play their part and act.
He said: “What I have asked my parliamentary committee [PAC] is to liaise with the Auditor General and the Ministry of Finance on what transpired. But whatever happens to the MPs afterwards is not my jurisdiction, if they are found guilty, then the law has to take its course.”
The audit report, based on a sample by the Central Internal Audit Unit, revealed that about 16 councils, including Chitipa, Karonga, M’mbelwa (Mzimba), Nkhotakota, Dowa, Ntcheu, Mangochi, Machinga, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Neno and Lilongwe City, were involved in the abuse. n