Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya has intervened in the wrangles between governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) over membership to influential constitutional committees.
In accordance with Section 56 and Section 162 of the Constitution, Parliament has reconstituted membership of the Public Appointments Committee (PAC), Budget and Finance Committee, Legal Affairs Committee and Defence and Security Committee. They are all headed by chairpersons who belong to the opposition.
However, since the first committee, PAC, met two weeks ago, DPP has been accused of attempting to wrestle control from MCP by adding names of new members who were allegedly not approved by the Speaker.
DPP chief whip Henry Mussa has argued that his party deserves more seats on the committees by virtue of having more members of Parliament (MPs) in the House, apart from independent MPs who have joined the party following the May 20 2014 election.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Speaker Msowoya said he intervened after noting the confusion on the numbers of committee members that he announced when Parliament rose sine die earlier this month.
According to Standing Order 152, membership of each committee is decided by the Assembly on the recommendation of the Business Committee after party whips submit names of members of their parties and designation to the committees.
Most of the members who have turned up for committee meetings when they are not members are independent MPs who have joined DPP, prompting MCP to accuse the governing party of attempting to dominate the committee membership.
The Speaker said the Business Committee, which comprises leadership of the parties with most members in the House, would meet next week to iron out the challenges.
The wrangles have become apparent in the PAC with a constitutional mandate to approve specific executive public appointments such as ambassador-designates and parastatal board members.
Similar problems have also been noticed in the Legal Affairs Committee, which is also mandated to have oversight over the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Judiciary and the Malawi Electoral Commission among others.
Re-elected chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, Peter Chakhwantha, accused DPP of trying to gain numerical strength in the committees to veto executive decisions.
When the committee met on Monday this week, there was an additional three members from DPP to reach 21, a development that derailed proceedings on the day.
According to Standing Orders, every party must be represented in the committees in proportion to their numbers in the House, which means MCP, with its 48 MPs, is designated five seats while DPP also has five seats with its 51 MPs.