Parliament clueless on MPs absenteeism
Almost 10 months after the Business Committee mandated Parliament secretariat to examine how parliaments in the region should deal with members’ absenteeism, the secretariat has no clue on how to deal with the trend.
This is despite that Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, once warned that he would deal with all lawmakers who do not avail themselves for sittings without convincing reasons.
Our assessments of all four meetings of the previous session and the two meetings of the current session show that at least 50 Members of Parliament (MPs) are absent at every sitting day even though they pocket allowances.
In his June 8, 2015 Communication to the House, Msowoya said the attendance of plenary and committee meetings was the major essence of representation and expressed concern over MPs’ rampant absenteeism.
In an interview yesterday, Parliament Chief Public Relations Officer (PRO), Leonard Mengezi, admitted that no MP has had their sitting allowances withheld for being absent.
He said the process of identifying MPs who miss Parliament discussions without any proper reason is a long one, adding that the implementation of sanctions on them would not be achieved any time soon.
“Usually the absent MPs have reasons but even if they don’t, it is up to the political leadership to make things work. Secretariat is guided by the political leadership and once they have the way things should be done, we implement them,” said Mengezi.
He added that problems of MPs’ absenteeism become complex because they engage in many other businesses related to their responsibilities such that they can be out of the chamber but transacting Parliament business elsewhere.
“In fact, even internationally, you can never find that all MPs are present during plenary discussions,” he said, implying that the assignment Parliament secretariat was given did not bear the expected fruits.
But a University of Malawi political scientist, Boniface Dulani, has expressed displeasure over Parliament secretariat’s failure to implement sanctions on absent MPs who he said were supposed to be honourable and professional enough.
Dulani wondered why no proper solution was being found on the matter which he said has been raised many times before.
“It is very unfortunate that we keep on talking about MPs being absent when they only meet a few times in a year. Such behaviours are very unprofessional because they deny their constituencies representation in the House.
“Parliament secretariat needs to look into this matter seriously. One solution could be giving them allowances after they have attended the meetings. In fact, we would not be talking about all this if they were honourable and professional enough,” said Dulani.
Currently, according to Mengezi, MPs are paid their sitting and subsistence allowances a week or two in advance but, according to Dulani, this must be looked into.
At the end of the 45th Session of Parliament, both Leader of the House, Francis Kasaila, and People’s Party (PP) Leader in the House, Uladi Mussa, condemned MPs who were being absent when issues of national interest were being discussed in the chamber.
Mussa alleged that some MPs did not feel they were supposed to be present in the chamber because proceedings are in English, a language which he argued they have problems communicating in.
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