Folks, the housing scam in which the office of the Speaker of Parliament is embroidered in needs not drag on like former President Bakili Muluzi’s K1.7 billion ($2.4 million) corruption case which has chalked a decade of flip-flopping with no end in sight.
The most unfortunate thing is that the delay of the case in which First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje and Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya are accused of fleecing government additional K300 000 ($420) on top of their entitled housing allowances of K250 000 ($350) has nothing to do with legal procedures.
Rather, it’s because the two Deputy Speakers have become pawns in the power-play between DPP which rules the Executive and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which reigns supreme in the Legislature.
When the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) probed their case after it had been exposed by Weekend Nation, it established that indeed the two lied about living in rented houses so they could chalk a whopping K550 000 ($769) a month, more than double their official entitlement.
For starters PSC then directed that the two should get K250 000 housing allowance per month, which was the right thing to do. Interestingly, the challenge did not come from the culprits. Rather, it was Attorney General accusing Parliament of acting on issues outside its jurisdiction and without first consulting his office. Power!
Then member of Parliament for Rumphi East, Kamlepo Kalua (PP), wanted to move the august House to suspend the two Deputy Speakers on grounds that their scam was a “regressive step” in the fight against corruption and that it had brought the office of the Speaker into disrepute.
The two rushed to court and managed to stop Kalua from moving the motion through an injunction. Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda granted the injunction pending a judicial review of the case. PSC then referred the matter to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
The law making body, just like many of us, know that ACB, would have handled this matter much the same way as Muluzi’s K1.7 billion case. But surprise, surprise, ACB rebuffed Parliament. Instead, it observed that the Speaker and his deputies were all enjoying unauthorised housing allowances and that it’s the head of Parliament secretariat who deserve punishment for honouring their claims.
The Speaker and head of secretariat can speak for themselves and have the means to clear their names, if they are innocent. What should be of great concern to us all is the possibility that the case of Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya may not even be heard by way of judicial review as determined by Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda. It may simply fizzle out.
Attorney General already accused the Speaker of acting ultra vires on the matter, all the more reason why ACB had to take up the matter. It’s their job. Interestingly, all ACB did was a good job stirring debris in the muddy pool. Pure kid stuff, if you asked me.
No clear way forward on the Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya cases. Instead, ACB just made sure that Speaker Richard Msowoya too is yoked to the scandal by pointing out that not even his own K750 000 housing allowance was authorised!
Well and good. So, what next? Deafening silence!
It’s time ACB was told point blank that its antics are no longer amusing. Speaker Msowoya is not above the law. No office in the land—not even that of the State President—is above the law. If he has done any wrong in the matter, we look to ACB to take it up and ensure the law takes its course.
But ACB won’t look good at all by trying to let Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya off the hook easily. Not after the drama we’ve just witnessed lately when prosecutor Reyneck Matemba, who is also ACB Deputy Director, suddenly pulled out of the K1.7 billion Muluzi case, allowing wagging tongues to tell a tale of how the employer wants ACB to give his sacred cows above-the-law treatment.
While Malawians are languishing in poverty and deprivation due to rampant corruption which is draining a third of public revenue and has led to the flight of budget support which accounted to 40 percent of the recurrent budget; while people are taxed heavily only to get reduced public service delivery in return, the least ACB can do is give us hope that it’s much more than a toothless bulldog that won’t even bark when corruption of the politically-connected jumps the fence.