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High expectations over Parliament

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A number of quarters are expecting that in the meeting of Parliament which starts Monday, pertinent and hot issues affecting the country will be raised.

Some of the issues they expect to be raised in the House are the controversial purchase of maize from Zambia and slow progress on the K236 billion Cashgate suspected to have occurred in the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

Health rights activists expect that government will raise the health sector budget so that drugs become available to the country’s health facilities, particularly this time when some hospitals have already exhausted their drug budgets.

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Opposition People’s Party (PP) acting president, Uladi Mussa, said part from taking government to task on how it is implementing the 2016/17 K1.149 trillion national budget, there are many other issues his part will want government to respond to.

He said the party is prepared to ask President Peter Mutharika to go to the House to respond to some questions of national interest.

“We want answers on the issue of maize and what is delaying investigations of the K236 billion Cashgate. We are even prepared to ask the President to come to Parliament to answer other questions from Members of Parliament,” Mussa said in an interview on Sunday.

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But Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Chief Whip, Lobin Lowe, said the party will outline issues to prioritise after the Business Committee meeting.

“We have been told that the Business Committee will meet on Wednesday in the morning at 9 o’clock. Currently, we don’t know what we will discuss on Monday and Tuesday.

“We are also not sure with what will happen on the issue of Leader of the House. Will government choose another leader? This is one of the issues to be made clear in the Business Committee,” Lowe said.

In another interview yesterday, Parliament Chief Public Relations Officer, Leonard Mengezi, said the Business Committee has not yet held its meeting because its chairperson who is also the Speaker of the National Assembly, Richard Msowoya, was out of the country on official duties and arrived on Saturday.

“By the end of Friday last week, the committee had not yet met and maybe they can meet over the weekend or Monday morning before Parliament starts,” he said.

Another issue that is expected to be addressed during or before the meeting of the Business Committee is that of the status of Leader of the House.

Currently, Leader of the House, George Chaponda, is, according to a Mzuzu High Court order, suspended from his position as Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development to pave way for investigations on maize purchase from Zambia being conducted by a Commission of Inquiry that Mutharika set up last month.

Deputy Leader of the House is Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa.

Meanwhile, Executive Director for Malawi Heath Equity Network (Mhen), George Jobe, says government should consider increasing the drug budget.

He says drug woes in most district hospitals have worsened due to lack of sufficient funds.

“The health sector is facing a lot of challenges and we have seen memos which District Health Officers have written over the depletion of their drug budgets and it was also clear that in most districts the drug budget had also been cut. We expect Parliament to increase the drug allocation to the Ministry of Health,” he said.

Executive Director for Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec), Benedicto Kondowe, also says apart from scrutinising how resources have been managed in the education sector, the lawmakers should address outstanding issues relating to the welfare of teachers.

He said among other issues, the country still has over 20,000 teachers that are to be recruited and the matter needs urgent attention.

“There are issues of leave grants that have not yet been paid; we still have these teachers who are yet to be recruited. I know government would push this issue to the next financial year around May, but that this is a matter which requires urgent government decision,” he said

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