BY RALPH KASAMBARA
Too much Ado about nothing. Someone is diverting our attention from real things. It’s only that I am failing to pin it down.
Let me preface my comment it here by saying that had the Bill been debated in the National Assembly and passed no fraud would have been committed on Malawians. The money was to be borrowed by government and come to government coffers via our Reserve Bank. And it were to be spent under the Public Finance Management Act framework. Ministry of Finance was to be on top of it. The State House would have had nothing to do with it. Actually the Bill authorizing that borrowing was Gazetted on 7 July 2021. Members of Parliament and public had been made aware of its contents for about three weeks. Nothing sinister.
So what’s the fuss about? Members of the Business Committee ( and not MPs) complaining that some agenda item appeared on parliamentary business without their approval. Note that generally MPs have no say on what items to debate on a particular day. They are guided by the Business Committee that prepared the agenda items via Order Paper.
First it is NOT true that money Bills like this one religiously goes through Cabinet let alone cabinet committee on legal and parliamentary affairs. Most of the times these kind of Bills go to parliament straight from Ministry of Finance working with Ministry of Justice and/or AGs office. It’s very possible that the minister of justice will see the money Bill for the first time when it is Gazetted.
Secondly as already pointed out above this Bill was Gazetted on 7th July 2021. So far I haven’t heard anyone say that it was backdated or that the AG was not aware of it. Between date of gazetting and 31st July 2021 no one complained about the validity of the Bill. So we will assume it is valid and proper procedures were followed. That is a legal presumption. ( See General Interpretation Act and Bennion on Statutory Interpretation on this one.) Those that are contending otherwise must bring evidence to show that it was an irregular Bill.
Thirdly the Ministry of Finance does not draft Bills. They only instruct ministry of Justice to draft Bills. But it’s the responsibility of the ministry of finance to push parliament and any government institution or public officer who can accelerate the process of having the Bill appear on the Order Paper and/or have it debated in the National Assembly.
Fourthly there is nothing wrong with any member of the Executive Branch or indeed any private citizen in pushing members of the National Assembly to debate a money Bill that is to advance the public cause and in this case lead to construction of houses of our beloved members of security forces. We are tired in having our police officers live in small dilapidated buildings masquerading as police lines. In parenthesis compare with what our neighbors in Zambia call police lines. Is it not ironic that the same police officers that were to benefit from this Bill are arresting public officers that were simply pushing for their better welfare?
If I may be allowed to divert a little here. When the public heard that a certain officer was not confirmed by a certain parliamentary committee some members of public took it upon themselves to literally push members of that committee to re-sit and reverse it’s earlier decision. They called that lobbying. And they saw nothing wrong with that. Though some members argued that that was arm twisting parliament or interference with parliamentary independence. The dominant voice was that they were simply pushing MPs to re-debate and pass rational decision. So here too whoever pushed the Bill onto the Order Paper was simply pushing Maps not to rise before they had debated on this important money Bill.
Fifthly a director from Ministry of Finance nor a State House aide can cause a government printer to print a Bill. Not can any of the two cause any item appear on the Order Paper. That is NOT possible. So let’s have the Clerk of Parliament or any of his officers explain who caused that particular Order Paper to be printed. It’s that person that needs to answer how the Bill found its way on the Order Paper.
Sixthly even if an item was smuggled onto the Order Paper that per se does NOT make the Bill a fake one or make the one that smuggled it as having uttered a fake document as we have already said above the Bill itself was not fake. Indeed there is no abuse of office for any State House aide and/or director from Ministry of Finance pushing the officials from national assembly to have the Bill debated in parliament.
One might argue that corners were cut ie the Business Committee did not authorize that the Bill should appear on the Order Paper. That should be answered by the controlling officer of the National Assembly and/ or the government printer assuming the printing was not done by the national assembly printer. To hold outsiders as responsible for causing the print of the Order Paper is to embark on unnecessary voyage seeking scapegoats.
The National Assembly should deal with this as an internal maladministration and not hoodwink all of us into believing that the National Assembly is a crime scene. Far from it.So what’s happening? Politics at its best. DPP has hijacked the narrative and run with it to town painting the picture of Tonse Administration being corrupt and consisting a den of thieves. I will not remind Malawians about the Interconnection money Bill and how the DPP administration actually had it consented to by the State President without it even appearing on Order Paper forget about it being debated and passed in parliament.