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Parliament outlines drastic challenges

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Acting Clerk of Parliament (CoP) Roosevelt Gondwe, who in his capacity is Controlling Officer for the National Assembly, yesterday appeared before a cluster of three committees of Parliament where he outlined the drastic challenges that he is facing to undertake different activities.

The bottlenecks largely border on inadequate funding and, with the K7 billion that has been allocated to the National Assembly against the proposed budget of K13 billion and the ceiling of K8 billion, the CoP has a tough time balancing his expenditures within the available resources.

In his presentation, Gondwe admitted that even in the financial year that is nearing its end, the National Assembly was unable to undertake some crucial activities, including the recruitment of staff in posts falling vacant due to retirements, promotions and resignations.

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He added that due to inadequate funding, he has been unable to pay “huge amounts of money” for lawmakers’ May 2014 salaries and fuel allowances for the period spanning May to September 2014.

“Regarding the 2015/16 allocations, it was our ambition that we could get K13 billion. When the ceilings were given to us, we were meant to believe we would be at K8 billion but in the books it is at the K7 billion mark…

“What do I see for the future against the K7 billion that we have been given? Our immediate reaction is that we have to cut down on some very crucial activities,” said Gondwe.

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He disclosed that in the wake of the funding constraints, significant cuts will be effected on plenary meetings, Parliamentary committee meetings, MPs external travels and political party funding, among others.

“Looking at the implication of the figures, the question is; will it be possible for me to pay arrears to members which I earlier declared? We had planned meetings for members, but it is obvious not all these will be accomplished unless something is done,” added Gondwe.

According to Gondwe, there will also be a drastic decrease in committee meetings.

“We are also seeing the possibility of plenary meetings falling from 18 to 14 weeks in total this fiscal year,” said Gondwe.

He added that the National Assembly’s Strategic Plan will also be affected by the funding constraints apart from the Radio Project that Parliament is undertaking for outreach purposes.

Chairperson of the Public Appointments Committee (Pac) of Parliament Lingson Belekanyama, who presided over the cluster meeting of his committee, the Legal Affairs and the Statutory Authorities committees-where the CoP made his presentation – said they will scrutinize everything and provide recommendations in a report that will be produced.

He added that the concerns that were also expressed by the Judiciary over inadequate funding will also be captured in the report.

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