Amid plans to construct constituency houses, it has transpired that government pays each member of Parliament (MP) K400,000 as housing allowance each month; translating to K77.2 million monthly, K926.4 million a year and consequently, K4.6 billion in the five years of their term.
On Friday last week, President Lazarus Chakwera, during his maiden State of Nation Address (Sona) said government has plans to construct offices and houses for sitting MPs in their respective constituencies.
A professional Quantity Surveyor, who opted for anonymity, said a standard basic house constructed by the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) would cost between K40 and K50 million.
According to our calculations, if the government is to spend K50 million for each house, it would in total spend about K9.6 billion to construct all the 193 houses once off.
However, the surveyor said the first thing is to see the quality of the designs that government intends to construct and from that, a genuine basis would be made on whether government will be saving or not in the long run.
“Whichever route is taken, there are arguments to it. If you look at what the President said, he said in the long run it would be saving. But he will spend that money at once in billions; in the long run, those houses will be cheaper.
“Three bedroomed house would cost K 40 million for one with no ceiling, just a basic house. The problem is that government does not have a policy that they will stop paying for those houses. There is no law that MPs will be living in those houses. First of all, they should put a law that these houses will be official houses for the MPs. At this time, we are only hearing about the cost of saving that government intends to save but if we are to see the quality of the houses, then we would be able to make a better analysis if government will save or not,” said the Surveyor.
Minister of Information Gospel Kazako maintained that this arrangement is for the betterment of the people in the sense that their leaders will be closer to them, a development which he claims will make them more accountable.
Kazako said government wants MPs to stop the luxury of riding on serving the people for their own benefits.
“They will have no luxury. The first thing that people must understand is that if they have accepted to go and serve the people, then they should go and serve the people. The conditions of service demand that they stay in their constituencies.
“We want to fix situations where one lives in Lilongwe but claims to be serving his or her people in Balaka. We are reforming our visions and dreams on servant leadership so it demands that they should be with their people. Those that do not understand this idea we also understand them because they have not seen the new way of doing things. We are accustomed to thinking in a certain way. All these things will come together and capacitate what we want to do,” he said.
However, Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa said government has its priorities upside down, arguing government would rather focus on building houses for health workers and teachers.
“I stand by what I said. I still think government should have prioritised building houses for nurses or teachers. But also, what modalities has government put in place when one loses an election? So I think this is issue is very tricky. So I maintain the stand that MPs do not need constituency houses. If anything, a constituency office,” he said.
Governance expert Rafiq Hajat said economically it makes sense, but politically, it does not make sense.
“I would like to do some research as to whether this practice is done anywhere else in the world. However, it makes economic sense but I think they [MPs] may be resistant to this arrangement because I think a lot of them live in their own houses so they are paid to be living in their own houses. So economically it makes sense but politically it does not make sense. Essentially it has got pluses and minuses,” he said.
Meanwhile government disclosed that funds for this project are not included in the budget which was presented yesterday by the Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu.