Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya yesterday said he followed parliamentary procedure by referring the K577 billion Cashgate preliminary audit report to the House’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday.
The issue arose in Parliament when, standing on a point of order, Lilongwe Msozi South member of Parliament (MP) Vitus Dzoole Mwale (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) sought clarity on the procedural way of handling contents in the long-awaited report that had reportedly implicated some Cabinet ministers.
Before the Speaker ruled on the matter, Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua (Peoples’ Party–PP) and Mzimba West MP Harry Mkandawire (PP) also commented on the release of the report and demanded that concerned Cabinet ministers be thrown out of the House and should resign until they are cleared by investigations on the matter.
In his ruling, Msowoya said he had received the report and passed it on to PAC that would go through it before formally tabling the same in the House, as procedure demands.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, the Speaker said: “There was no debate. Not even curtailing of a debate. My job was simply to let the House know what was happening, so that they [members] don’t become desperate.
“So, if the House has no confidence in the committee of Parliament, then they can say ‘we don’t want these people [PAC], send it to another organisation.’”
The Speaker said the headline that read ‘Speaker Blocks K577bn Debate’ in The Nation’s July 6 edition misrepresented facts, mainly because there was no debate on the matter as no debate is allowed on a point of order in the House.
He said this was the reason he gave notice to throw out MPs who would insist on the debate, which would be unprocedural until after PAC formally tabled the report in the House.
Msowoya said following his ruling, and after the media report came out, he has been inundated by queries and concerns that he was shielding individuals involved in the K577 billion plunder.
“I find such criticism to be very unfair,” he lamented, pointing out that he is guided by the House’s set standing orders.
The Speaker commented on the matter on his Facebook page, where he concluded by wishing all readers a “Happy Eid Mubarak” yesterday.
“The Speaker is only to moderate discussions in accordance with the procedures and rules of the House. He has no absolute mandate to craft any other agenda other than what is resolved by the House through consensus of the House.
“Personally, I look at matters objectively for the common interest of all Malawians. I, therefore, do not have any interest nor motivation whatsoever to shield anyone in the House but side with Malawians and the truth,” Msowoya stated.
According to Standing Order 81, the only motions that can be moved without notice, with the permission of the Speaker, include the suspension of rules, a motion moved when Parliament is in committee during bills, a motion to vary sitting times or a motion to amend a motion’s subject among others.
A point of order, which Dzoole Mwale raised, is an entitlement of a member to raise when seeking guidance of the Speaker or Chair or complaining of un-parliamentary behaviour on the part of another member.
The raising of a point of order begins with “Is it in order…,” then the speaker rules by either sustaining it or rules out of order the member raising it.
In the case of the K577 billion, Msowoya explained that the preliminary report was undergoing scrutiny by PAC, after which it would be presented to the plenary for debate.
However, PAC has been failing to meet to scrutinise the report due to lack of funding with accusations and counter-accusations between Treasury and Parliament that the government did not want the committee to scrutinise the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) data analysis report that exposed the unreconciliated amount covering 2009 to December 31 2014.
In the 2016/17 budget, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe has allocated about K2 billion to increase the number of meetings oversight committees will have in the year.