LEGISLATORS on Tuesday demanded that Finance minister Mthuli Ncube give them money so that they find their own accommodation in Harare instead of using hotels which Treasury was failing to pay for, resulting in MPs being embarrassingly chucked out of their lodgings.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance Felix Mhona told the National Assembly during budget debate on the Finance Bill that his committee was recommending that Parliament be allowed to manage its own finances.
“Untimely release of funds has made Parliament to accumulate huge outstanding payment arrears to service providers who are now shunning Parliament, and this has put a serious dent on the dignity of Parliamentarians who are now shunned by hotels and other service providers,” Mhona said.
“As a custodian of constitutional democracy, Parliament needs adequate resources to carry out its mandate consistent with Section 325 (b) of the Constitution and there should be no negotiation on that regard.
“The Committee feels that by allowing Parliament to manage its own budget, a win-win situation will be created as this will enable Administration of Parliament to implement a wholesome package where MPs are given a monthly stipend and allowed to manage their own affairs,” he said.
Mhona said this will ensure that where millions are blown every week in accommodation and related expenses during Parliament sitting days, MPs will find their own cheaper accommodation instead of relying on hotels only.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa then added: “This government is the most hypocritical government where it allows us to stay in hotels, but it is not prepared to give us the money it pays to hotels to find ourselves somewhere to stay. If we talk of austerity measures, we must move out of those hotels and be given a monthly allowance of $3 000 for accommodation and food. These MPs would be having mortgages and houses as a result of that.
“But this government is spending so much money paying hotels, but none of these Members want to stay in hotels. If you calculate the amount of money you spend in hotels it is US$200 per day. The Meikles is paid in US dollars. Ncube is prepared to pay Meikles in US dollars. MPs can rent a one bedroom apartment for $500 and spend $500 on food and the rest goes into other issues,” Mliswa said.
He also said the $50 000 constituency development fund (CDF) should now be converted using the 1:9 interbank exchange rate because the amount was too little in RTGS dollars to finance any meaningful projects.
Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa also complained about the meagre allocations to Parliament and the Auditor General’s Office, compared to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) which received a huge allocation.
“The OPC were awarded an increment of 169%, yet Parliament was awarded 68% and now the OPC has $794 million, while Parliament has $243 million. Out of the OPC budget $210 million is allocated to special projects and if you compare with the Parliament budget that is a $30 million difference. The AG was awarded a mere 91% increase in a country full of corruption which the AG needs to expose,” Mushoriwa observed.
MPs also complained that the $81 million allocated for their vehicles will see them getting a mere $25 000 each.