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‘Parliament will not block K30 billion Affordable Inputs Programme probe’

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Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani Hara has said Parliament will not block any probe into the abuse of public resources by public servants, including the alleged missing of K30 billion meant for Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) fertiliser.

Gotani Hara was speaking in Lilongwe Wednesday, barely a day after a Public Accounts Committee scheduled meeting to look at various abuses of public resources was halted because of leadership issues that have been referred to the courts.

According to Gotani Hara, a number of committees are working on a number of issues of national interest, adding that, to avoid duplication of efforts, Parliament is consolidating the matters to ensure easy coordination.

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“This is why my office has already directed that a joint committee be formed immediately with membership from the following committees: Public Accounts Committee as constituted in July 2022, the Agriculture Committee, the Budget Committee and, Statutory Commission to enquire into a number of issues of public interest, including the Affordable Inputs Programme.

“This will not be the first time a parliamentary joint committee is formed to look into matters of national interest. Recently, there was a Joint Committee of Natural Resources, Public Accounts, and Budget to look into challenges of fuel and forex shortage in the country,” Gotani Hara said.

On the pending of meetings for the Public Accounts Committee (Pac), the Speaker said Section 56(7) (b) provides for the annual membership reconstitution of three constitutional committees of Parliament namely Public Appointments, Legal Affairs and Budget.

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She said the annual reconstitution of membership of the committees affects membership of other parliamentary committees established under Standing Order 148(3) as well.

According to Gotani Hara, as per Standing Order 152(2), it is the duty of party whips to provide names of members of their parties for designation to committees by the Business Committee.

“Following this exercise, the name of Honourable Shadric Namalomba, MP, was not amongst those that were submitted by the Democratic Progress Party to be part of Pac membership that went on to elect Honourable Mark Botomani, MP, as new chairperson for the Public Accounts Committee.

“Nevertheless, Honourable Namalomba felt injured and obtained a court injunction which reinstated him as Chairperson of Pac. There was, however, no direction on which membership of Pac he was to chair considering that he was not elected by the newly constituted committee,” Gotani Hara said.

She added that, in view of the situation, the Committee of Chairpersons, established under Standing Order 162, at a meeting held on October 7 2022, decided that all Pac meetings be pended until there was a clear direction on which of the two groups Namalomba would chair.

She was quick to note that, in the interim, following the court’s decision to reinstate Namalomba as chairperson of Pac, Parliament has proceeded to recognise him as such.

Briefing reporters after the failed meeting on Tuesday, Namalomba described Tuesday afternoon as “one of the saddest days in Malawi’s history.

“I am very disappointed. This is a sad day for Malawi. We, as Pac, wanted to conduct enquires into the merciless looting of public resources and we have been stopped. Let the public be the best judge,” Namalomba said.

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