By Deogratias Mmana:
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Kondwani Nankhumwa has implicated Leader of the House Richard Chimwendo Banda as having some knowledge about the smuggling of the Loan Authorisation Bill 22 of 2021 into Parliament.
Nankhumwa, who once served as Leader of the House and Government Business too, said yesterday at a news conference at Parliament that it is not possible for anyone to put a bill on an order paper without the knowledge of Leader of the House.
“Leader of the House is familiar with the business on the order paper. One cannot put any business on the order paper without the Leader of the House’s knowledge. There must have been some laxity on the part of the Leader of the House,” said Nankhumwa.
He said he is supporting an inquiry by the Business and Finance Committee of Parliament which has already asked Parliament to allow it conduct investigations into the smuggling of the Bill.
“Business and Finance Committee wants to conduct an inquiry. At this point, I cannot tell who is wrong or right. We shall wait for the report from the Business and Finance Committee,” said Nankhumwa.
He also dismissed the accusation that the Business Committee of Parliament slept on the job by not discussing the Bill. He said according to Standing Orders, the Business Committee does not discuss bills.
But Chimwendo Banda in an interview yesterday offered a contrary explanation.
“Because of the Covid pandemic, Parliament agreed through a resolution that all documents including Order Papers be shared as soft copy and it was sent on the same day in the morning prior to the seating and this is Friday which was also the last day of the seating,” said Banda.
He added: “After seeing the Order Paper, I stood as Leader of the House to withdraw the business of the bill before any other business and it was the first item to do after the Speaker’s announcement.
“The Bill was not presented nor debated as others are putting it.”
The Bill found itself on the Order Paper allegedly without the knowledge of the Leader of the House who leads government business and Minister of Finance of Finance Felix Mlusu, among others.
The bill, falling under Ministry of Homeland Security, was to ask parliamentarians to allow government borrow 98,360,000 euro (about K93 billion) to finance construction of houses for security agencies such as Malawi Defence Force, Malawi Police Service and Malawi Prisons.
Nankhumwa also said the House is fond of breaking procedures which he said facilitates development such as the smuggling of the Bill.
He spoke against the tendency of Cabinet Ministers asking for waivers to bring bills to the house for debate before the expiry of 28 days as stipulated in the Standing Orders.
“According to Standing orders, a bill takes 28 days of consultation before it is brought to Parliament for debate but it has been a tendency for Ministers to ask for a waiver to fast track bills for tabling. We do not follow procedures,” said Nankhumwa.
Nankhumwa said the tendency to get waivers to fast track bills was once challenged by the courts but it has not stopped.
“If a bill is tabled, it should be referred to a relevant committee and that committee is expected to bring a report to the House. But this is not happening,” said Nankhumwa.
He also challenged parliamentarians to read adequately to be conversant with parliamentary conditions and proceedings.
During the week, President Lazarus Chakwera fired his special adviser on special duties Pastor Martin Thom following investigations into the smuggled Bill.
Thom was later arrested alongside Ministry of Finance Debt and Aid Management director Nations Msowoya over the Bill which was pushed on order paper for July 9, 2021.