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MPs should raise bar of competency


We were not surprised by Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga’s revelations this week that our MPs do not possess basic knowledge in accounting.

We are however worried that nothing is being done about this.

Matinenga said in an interview that MPs were failing to account for monies disbursed to them under the Constituency Development Fund.

Matinenga said while generally most MPs had properly applied the monies, the utilisation fell short of required standards.

“What we have noticed, except for one or two constituencies, is that there is no capacity to do proper books of accounts by most MPs, but not really misuse of the funds, ” said Matinenga.

Finance minister Tendai Biti in this year’s budget allocated each constituency $60 000 to help finance developmental projects.

The announcement of the vote was greeted with great applause by MPs last year, but their enthusiasm has not been matched by delivery.

While Matinenga said there was generally no misuse of the funds, this is hard to believe especially when spoken in the same breath with/as the MPs’ failure to keep record of accounts.

A clean bill of health on projects embarked upon using the funds can only be given when the MPs have demonstrated how the money was used.

They need to produce receipts and vouchers showing how funds were employed. Pointing at a repaired dip tank or bicycles for headmen is not good enough!

The failure to keep proper records of accounts is a huge indictment on the MPs we have.

We want to point out at this juncture that one of the key functions of Parliament is to keep a tight leash on the Executive.

This fundamental function is only possible when we have MPs of the right calibre: men and women of integrity and who possess the right intellectual aptitude to probe the activities of the Executive.

MPs can only play this watchdog role if they can do basic things like keeping records, documenting development in their constituencies and keeping track of social needs in the community.

Most MPs have generally failed in this regard to the extent that they know very little about the people they represent.

The functional illiteracy displayed by legislators makes a number of them incapable of raising the flag in the event of misuse of public funds.

Successive reports by the Comptroller and Auditor-General have exposed rampant misuse of State funds.

The reports have not been complemented by robust debate from MPs. Can they do this when they cannot keep record of accounts for $60 000?

This state of affairs is worrying. MPs need to raise the bar of competency. That is ensuring that they do a basic course in public administration or any other programme that empowers them to document events and processes.

Most of them however need to be introduced to a computer first. Isn’t it shocking in that in the 21st century we have MPs who are so technologically challenged that they have never used email?

There must be a deliberate plan to make sure our MPs catch up. The Constituency Development Fund has exposed them. This country deserves better leaders and not toadying slogan-pushers.

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