“You get people who are so popular for some reason and come to Parliament, but they do not have the basic academic tools … Some of the Bills address complicated and technical issues and they (legislators) get lost (during debate).”
The above observation was made by Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda in 2014 while addressing National Defence College students.
Adv Mudenda’s statement rang true last week as lawmakers said they did not know how to manage a US$50 000 Constituency Development Fund.
Instead, they want to “employ and pay” people to manage US$50 000.
Adv Mudenda had said: “Members who have received CDFs for constituency projects are reminded to submit their monthly, quarterly and annual returns to Parliament Management Committee in terms of Article 524 of the Accounting Officers Instructions.
“The documents to be submitted include, but not limited to; returns of expenditure; returns of bank reconciliation statements; returns of assets purchased; and project job cards.”
That is when Warren Park House of Assembly representative Engineer Elias Mudzuri (MDC-T) suggested lawmakers employ people to do this for them.
“On the accounting manual and on the process of running this account there is no room for employing an accounting officer,” said the legislator who is also MDC-T co-deputy president.
“You will find out that the Member of Parliament becomes the accounting officer … There must be that allowance where you have to allow for employment of somebody who runs the accounts. It is very difficult for (legislators) to be able to do it.”
Cde Remigious Matangira (Zanu-PF) of Bindura South proposed scrapping the requirement of submitting a project card — a detailed breakdown of the project and timelines.
His argument was that this required the skills of people better equipped than MPs.
According to Section 125 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, a person is eligible to stand for a House of Assembly seat if he/she is a registered voter and at least 21 years old. Senators must be at least 40 years old and registered voters.
The supreme law does not say anything about educational qualifications.
But it is strange that our lawmakers cannot administer a US$50 000 fund and yet one of their key duties is to protect public funds.
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust executive director Mr John Makamure says: “If you have been given public funds you cannot then say I don’t have skills to account for each and every cent.
“They (legislators) need to acquire the skills and account. People need to know what their money was used for. Whether the legislators are educated or not, they cannot give such excuses, that excuse is unacceptable.”
At the same time, MPs are pressing Government to pay them their dues — even as they admit they do not know have the skills to do their jobs.
The life of Parliament is expected to be terminated in a few months as the country prepares for fresh polls in mid-2018.
Musikavanhu legislator Mr Prosper Mutseyami (MDC-T) is at the forefront of agitating for disbursement of residential stands to MPs before their terms of office expire.
“Our term is coming to an end. Mr Speaker Sir, I request your esteemed office, as the chairperson (of the Welfare Committee) and Speaker of the National Assembly, to facilitate for us as Members of Parliament to hold an urgent joint caucus so that we deliberate on issues to do with our welfare and outstanding issues that have not been addressed to date.
“Members have been given numbers, with regard to stands, yet there is no offer letter or anything – they are just numbers. So we need to make sure that we put this thing to an end, then we see who is playing games with who and how? Then we come up with a solution.”
Political analyst Mr Godwine Mureriwa said such behaviour eroded public confidence in the legislature.
“The President is talking about servant leadership and MPs have to take a leaf from that. The problem is that the electorate is bribed to vote for undeserving parliamentarians.
“The fear is that they are not going to be re-elected, so Government should not be forced to meet unnecessary demands and ignore topical issues of rebuilding the economy.”