via More headaches for Parly | The Herald by Lloyd Gumbo October 7, 2013
PARLIAMENTARIANS gobble at least US$200 000 per week in sitting allowances and accommodation when both Houses sit. Government also pays the legislators’ travel and subsistence allowances in the form of fuel coupons calculated at least at 2.5 kilometres per litre depending on the vehicle’s engine capacity.
Ministers and their deputies are not entitled to the allowances because their upkeep falls under their ministries’ budget. There are about 290 backbenchers from Senate and the National Assembly entitled to these allowances.
The Eighth Parliament, with 350 members, is the biggest in Zimbabwe’s history, up from the 276 members of the Seventh Parliament and was born out of the tripartite Constitution-making process that brought together Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC.
Apart from increased demand on the fiscus, the Eighth Parliament also faces severe space constraints that have seen Clerk of Parliament Mr Austin Zvoma propose the equivalent of hot-sitting for legislators.
For a country of 13million inhabitants, Zimbabwe’s legislature appears bigger than usual, for instance 52 million strong South Africa has 400 legislators, Angola at 18 million people has 220 MPs, Mozambique at 24 million has 250 seats and Ghana at 25 million people has 275 legislators.
“All these backbenchers get US$75 per sitting whether for committee business or normal House sitting,” said a source yesterday.
“If all of them attend any Parliamentary business on the same day, then Government has to pay at least US$22 000 in sitting allowances per day.
For the three days that both Houses usually sit per week, at least US$70 000 goes to sitting allowances since some legislators would have attended committee meetings where they are also entitled to US$75.
“So far, no sitting allowances have been paid. Usually sitting allowances are paid at the end of the month.”
Parliament also pays a maximum of US$120 in hotel accommodation per day for each legislator without alternative accommodation.
Members of Parliament usually sit from Tuesdays to Thursdays, while others attend committee meetings between Monday and Thursday.
Another source said most legislators did not have alternative accommodation in Harare.
“For that reason, about 200 legislators are booked in hotels at the maximum rate of US$120 per day. We usually work with Three Star hotels, but if Five Star hotels accept to accommodate legislators at US$120 per day, they can stay.
“That means at least US$100 000 has to be paid directly to hotels in accommodation bills per week. It can even be higher depending on when legislators check in, in hotels. Some of them check in on Mondays, meaning they would stay in the hotel for at least four days.
“There are about 90 MPs with alternative accommodation in Harare who are entitled to 50 percent of hotel accommodation threshold which, in this case is US$60 per day when Parliament sits.
“In total, Government has to pay at least US$30 000 per day on accommodation only. Because of liquidity constraints, Parliament has failed to pay hotel bills on time. Some of the hotels have been lenient. Parliament debts have continued to accumulate, but there is hope that everything will be settled soon,” said the source.
During the Inclusive Government era, legislators were on several occasions chucked out of hotels due to debts exceeding US$750 000.
Parliament also owes some current and former legislators outstanding allowances incurred during the Seventh Parliament.
It is understood that each legislator was entitled to an average of US$15 000. Mr Zvoma was reluctant to comment yesterday.