via Broke MPs borrow to attend sittings | The Herald June 4, 2014 by Zvamaida Murwira
Legislators are borrowing money from friends and relatives to travel to Harare on Parliamentary business as they have gone for months without getting their allowances. The 350-member Parliament is facing teething financial problems and many hotels are turning away MPs due to ballooning debts. MPs have not been getting sitting allowances, fuel coupons and vehicles.
“Some of them come from as far as Chiredzi, Hwange and Nyanga to attend sittings using their own money,” Zanu-PF Chief Whip Cde Joram Gumbo told The Herald yesterday.
“The most affected are rural MPs who have to be mobile in their constituencies.
“Some Zanu-PF MPs might be better because they got vehicles from the party, but there are others from Zanu-PF who came through proportional representation with no vehicles, and those from the two MDCs.”
MDC-T Chief Whip Mr Innocent Gonese also bemoaned the financial dire straits MPs found themselves in.
“MPs have to service their own vehicles, while some have to travel thousands of kilometres to come to Parliament. Some of the MPs are forced to borrow to come to Parliament.”
Last week, Parliament adjournedfor a month, with legislators going back to their constituencies empty handed.
They are owed about 15 weeks of fuel and sitting allowances from the last Parliament are yet to be paid.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Cde Marble Chinomona had to restrain Buhera South MP Cde Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu-PF) last Thursday as he fumed about Parliament’s failure to pay them.
This was after Cde Chinomona announced that Parliament was taking the month long break.
MPs are owed about US$4 million in sitting allowances from the last Parliament, and US$1,4 million is oustanding for the current Parliament.
Allowances are pegged at US$75 per sitting.
Parliament received US$14 million from Treasury in 2013, which rose to US$20 million this year.
The money is for employment costs, travel, maintainance, capital expenditure, acquistion of fixed assets, goods and services and programmes.
Commentators have said part of the problem lies in having a “bloated” Parliament: there are 350 National Assembly and Senate representatives for a country of 13 million people.
Cde Chinotimba concurred.
“We have MPs with own resources, but we have other MPs like Chinotimba with no resources, but whose work in their constituencies is recognised pasi nekudenga,” he said. “Yes, I agree that the number of MPs is too big and does not help our country.”
South Africa, with a population of 52 million, has 400 legislators, Angola’s 18 million citizens are represented by 220 MPs,while the 24 million people of Mozambique have 250 representaives. Zambia has 160 MPs for its 13 million strong population.
The world’s second-largest country, India, has 1,2 billion people and just 790 legislators.
Clerk of Parliament Mr Austin Zvoma said while Parliament was operating on limited resources, its adjournment had nothing to do with constrained resources.
“We have a business calendar that we are adhering to. Resources are not enough, but that has not stopped Parliament from sitting. With or without resources, Parliament, the world over, will meet or adjourn.”
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust executive director Mr John Makamure said Treasury should adequately fund Parliament.
“The problem of a bloated Parliament is not new; the issue dates back to the last Parliament. But whether it’s big or not, Treasury has an obligation to adequately fund Parliament.”
Out of the country’s 350 legislators, 210 are elected into the National Assembly – which also has 60 females from the women’s quota – while the Senate has 80 seats.
Zimbabwe’s Eighth Parliament also faces severe space constraints for when all 350 legislators show up for sittings.
Further, Treasury is failing to provide resources for refurbishment of Quality International, which Parliament bought with a view to housing MPs when they come to Harare on official business.
Zimbabwe’s Parliament has grown over the years from 100 in 1980, 120 in 1990, 150 in 2005, 303 in 2008, and 350 in 2013.