GOVERNMENT could have been swindled of substantial amounts of money by Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators who overstated fuel allowances owed to them by Parliament.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
SENIOR PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER
Officially opening the post-budget seminar in Harare yesterday where senators and MPs had gathered to hear presentations by different economic and financial experts on how to interrogate budgetary issues, Speaker of the House of Assembly Jacob Mudenda said what the legislators were doing was corruption.
Mudenda said there was too much corruption happening in the country and noted with dismay that some MPs overstated fuel-allowance claims that were not in tandem with the mileage they would have covered on parliamentary business.
“There is a lot of corruption in the country and legislators play an oversight role and must be responsible and ensure such practices are stopped,” Mudenda said.
“How can MPs stop this corruption when they themselves engage in it and overstate distances they travel coming to and from Parliament resulting in amounts owed to them for fuel allowances being inflated?”
This is not the first time MPs have been caught on the wrong side of the law.
More than 20 MPs were in 2012 found to have abused the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) meant to fund projects that benefit their constituencies.
Three MPs were arrested and charged with misappropriation of the funds, but their prosecution was stopped following the intervention of the then Attorney-General’s Office headed by Johannes Thomas.
Parliamentarians, Mudenda said, should be vigilant and ensure budget allocations to line ministries were used in a responsible manner to avoid over expenditure.
“MPs must be bold enough to play their oversight role and supervise line ministries so that they use what they were allocated accordingly. Parliament should efficiently interrogate the budget and check that the Executive acts responsibly,” he said.
Parliament currently owes more than a million dollars to MPs in sitting allowances and former legislators of the Seventh Session of Parliament have still not been paid amounts owed to them.
Some former MPs were owed as much as 7 000 litres of fuel in coupons which were not remitted.
Mudenda also said he was not happy with the fact that Parliament was allocated only $23 741 000 when the institution had asked for $35 million.
“MPs must rise against party politics and should not just rubber-stamp a budget. Like any other line ministry, Parliament has expenses and our wish was to get the amount we bid for,” he said.
Parliament will resume sitting next week to debate the Finance Bills that will operationalise the $4,1 billion Budget that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced last month.