Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya has ordered Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to investigate members of Parliament who are suspected of mismanaging Constituency Development Fund (CDF) money and risk possible arrest and prosecution.
The order comes after President Peter Mutharika demanded accountability from MPs when he addressed the National Assembly last week Friday during the State opening of the 47 session of parliament.
Said Mutharika “My government has been accountable to the people of Malawi through you. We are always accountable to Parliament. But are you accountable to Government and the people who voted for you?
“As we say in Latin, quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Put it this way, who watches the watchers? Who is holding accountable the MPs who hold us accountable in this house?”
In his address, Mutharika highlighted the abused of CDF, saying he has heard “the people crying” that some development projects are not completed because their Member of Parliament has abused CDF.
“Government sets aside this money in the budget for the people. The fund is for development work in the constituencies. But some members are abusing the money instead of giving development to the people. Some MPs abuse the funds of the people. And yet Mr. Speaker, the same vocal MPs stand here to accuse government of corruption,” said Mutharika.
Mutharika continued: “Something is tragic with a democracy in which those who think are watchdogs also think they must be accountable to no one. In any human society, in any democracy, no institution must be accountable to no one. That is precisely why I delight to see Ministries, Departments and Agencies of my Government being subjected to accountability in this House. I am pleased to see accountability at work in this House and in my government. We have seen Public Accounts Committee ensure that Ministries, Departments and Agencies are subjected to public finance management. We have seen the Auditor General at work.”
On Thursday, Mwanza Central MP Davis Katsonga (Democratic Progressive Party), in his contribution to Mutharika’s address, told the House that there is a report from the Auditor General that 20 MPs abused CDF.
“Despite the information being available, Parliament is quiet. Even the President noted this. If something has gone wrong we should be the first people to say so, not just being quiet,” Katsonga, a former Speaker himself, said.
Speaker then ordered PAC, which provides oversight functions to government ministries, departments and agencies, “to join hands with the Auditor General and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development” to ensure that the report and names of MPs named in the abuse of CDF be tabled in the House before it adjourns.
An audit report on CDF and District Development Fund (DDF) done last year indicated that about K80 million is missing from the K3 billion allocated to 16 district councils under CDF and DDF.
The report also found that some of the MPs were the ones sourcing quotations instead of procurement departments in councils.
Reads the excerpt: “In some cases, the goods and materials were procured from suppliers that were related to the honourable members of Parliament. In addition, many projects were initiated by the honourable members of Parliament only without the involvement of their area development committees.”
According to reports, Cabinet minister and MP for Phalombe North Anna Kachikho was criticised by her constituents , councillors and traditional leaders for using party structures in development projects under CDF.
The criticisms were sounded during a development interface meeting facilitated by Development Communications Trust (DCT) implementing a Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) project in the area alongside Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP).
Kachikho, franked by party officials at the meeting, was questioned for using party zealots including a constituency secretary only identified as Mr Chinawa who is alleged to have been signing for projects instead of councillors for respective areas.
A report by civil society organisations (CSOs) in Rumphi showed that millions of kwacha in the 2016/17 fiscal year were allegedly spent on unnamed projects or on expenditures whose materials were not known.
According to the report, the issues involve 58 percent of K10 030 700 in Rumphi West Constituency; 42 percent of K11 148 004 in Rumphi Central Constituency and 88.5 percent of K10 764 330 in Rumphi East Constituency.