Minister of Local Government, Ben Phiri, Monday irked Members of Parliament (MPs), especially those from the opposition benches when he blamed them for being part of the rot in city, town, municipal and district councils.
Phiri was responding to concerns raised by MPs when they were making contributions to a report by the Public Accounts Committee on accounts of the local councils for the years ended June 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Among others, Phiri observed that MPs are part of the local councils, therefore if the councils are rotten; the lawmakers need to share the blame.
“Members of Parliament are members of the full council. That’s where audits are discussed, that’s where accounts are discussed and that’s where everything at council level is discussed. Now at what point do you realise that money was mismanaged?
“If they did not notice that, then they are part of the same. Again most of our MPs have an appetite to get too involved in the procurement [process] itself when the money that we use for CDF is subjected to Finance Management Act as well as Audit Act. As a result, I was requesting them to allow civil servants to do their work, to follow the procurement procedures, that’s when we can curb corruption than for us to be preaching of corruption to do with civil servants when us as MPs are part of the same,” Phiri said.
The response did not go down well with the lawmakers, who accused the minister of making a blanket statement that they were corrupt.
Ntchisi South MP, Ulemu Chilapondwa, rose on a point of order to query whether it was proper for Phiri to allege that MPs are fully part of the failures in district councils.
“Is the minister aware that there are a lot of people that have been specifically sent to our district councils so that we members of Parliament, especially from this side [opposition] get frustrated. Is he aware of that?” he asked.
Dowa East MP, Richard Chimwendo, Banda, asked Phiri to bring a report to the house and name the MPs who, he claimed are part of the rot in the district councils.
“Honourable Minister, you have the power. Bring the names here, or give them to the Public Accounts Committee so that people can know them. Otherwise, it is not good for people to be branded here as corrupt when you do not have the names,” Chimwendo Banda said.
Dedza South MP, Ishmael Onani and Mzimba South MP, Emmanuel Jere, also queried Phiri for alleging that MPs are corrupt without bringing evidence.
Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara, intervened by asking Phiri whether he had the names of MPs who are part of the rot in the councils or if he didn’t have the list, to withdraw his statement.
Phiri said he had a report with audit queries of constituencies which he could bring to the house but that in the interest of investigations, he withdrew the statement.
Public Accounts Committee Chairperson, Ken Kandodo, said the report made a number of recommendations, including the need for qualified internal auditors in most councils.
Kandodo added that the report recommended that key staff in the councils, such as District Commissioners should not be moved around frequently which results in management problems.
“There is also a need to start punishing offenders as the absence of real punishments is resulting in a culture of impunity,” Kandodo said.