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AG faults speaker over deputies

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The Attorney General (AG), Kalekeni Kaphale, has described as irregular Parliamentary Service Commission’s decision to query Deputy Speakers Clement Chiwaya and Esther Mcheka -Chilenje over the alleged pocketing of extra housing allowances.

The Commission, through its Chairperson Richard Msowoya, who is also Speaker of the National Assembly, wrote the two deputies on August 11 to explain their side of the story in writing by Friday last week following the allegations.

Inside sources also confided in The Daily Times that a consensus was reached by the Commission at its meeting over the weekend to have Chiwaya and Mcheka-Chilenje suspended from their positions pending investigations.

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But in an interview yesterday, Kaphale said the Commission does not have such powers, according to the Parliamentary Act.

According to him, the Commission only has powers over senior parliamentary staff, including Clerk of Parliament who is appointed by it.

Said Kaphale: “I must first point out that I haven’t been consulted on the decisions or actions that the [Commission] is making but as far as I know, the two deputies can only answer to Parliament sitting as a House and not a particular committee.”

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Kaphale further said the Commission erred in querying the two deputies to explain the allegation as that also does not fall under its jurisdiction.

The AG added that if he was consulted on the matter, he could have guided the Commission on how best to handle the issue.

Sources at Parliament confided in The Daily Times that members expressed dissatisfaction with the response given by the two deputies who were asked to give their side of the story regarding the claims, hence the suggestion to have them suspended

Media reports indicate that Chiwaya and Mcheka- Chilenje declared that the houses they are staying in belong to estate agents, thereby forcing Parliament to give them an extra K300, 000 a month, since it was perceived that the houses they are staying in are rented.

In her written response to the query by the Commission dated August 21 2015, Mcheka-Chilenje states, “I wish to state in as far as the issue of housing is concerned, I have always been guided by the terms and conditions of service for the Deputy Speaker as furnished and confirmed to me by the Clerk of Parliament who is Secretary to the Par l iamentary Service Commission and controlling officer of the National Assembly dated 19th June 2015.”

Minutes of an extraordinary meeting of the Commission held on July 13 2014 which we have seen, show that a recommendation was made to revise accommodation rates from K450,000 to K750,000 for Speaker, K150,000 to K550,000 for Deputy Speakers while leader of opposition’s rate went up to K550,00 from K100,000.

“These rates have been derived based on the understanding that housing locations like Area3, 9, 10, 12, 43 and 47, the rentals are going at an average of US$2,500, translating to roughly K1 million for foreigners and the rates could be slightly lower if the tenant is a Malawian citizen,” reads the minutes in part

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