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They just can’t change

With Tsibweni Chalo:

By its nature and format, the mid-year budget review meeting, despite not being statutory, is expected to bring Members of Parliament (MPs) to a point where they earnestly reflect on the economic progress of the country and whether projections which were made were realistic in the first place.

There are other activities that take place like deliberating various bills, and ministers presenting statements on what they are doing in their respective portfolios regarding crucial issues which Malawians need answers on.

Within this scope, it is imperative that MPs conduct themselves with integrity because a mid-year budget review meeting is not a useless gathering aimed at just squandering public funds in sitting allowances.

Mdzukulu, it is sad that our MPs do not seem to understand what their roles are. This is despite that they undergo orientation on their duties and responsibilities which border on oversight, legislation and representation.

All these areas require that MPs are physically present in the chamber. There could be circumstances that prevent them from doing so but they are supposed to be genuine.

There was a time Parliament leadership seemed to be serious when it came to dealing with errant MPs who choose to steal from Malawians by drawing allowances only to shun chamber deliberations.

Speaker Richard Msowoya even announced that secretariat would be advised to deduct sitting allowances for those who shun the deliberations.

We have not seen or heard that happening. What we know is that our MPs are often selfish officers who will do everything possible to defend each other and ensure their interests are realised.

Mdzukulu, with elections just over two months away, there are many things that our MPs need to look into especially regarding government expenditure.

That is why it is disheartening that at the opening of the current mid-year budget review meeting on Tuesday, Parliament adjourned early apparently because there was no business to transact for the day.

That is strange. For a country that is struggling economically, there should always be business to transact.

Some stakeholders including the African Development Bank warned Malawi against spending beyond its means in this election year, a thing which the bank stated would erode the economic gains that the country has made so far.

This was one of the issues which our MPs also promised they would look into when they meet— that they would pin government down and demand answers on expenditures in some departments which is said to have exceeded projections before the financial year expires.

Of course, Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe is expected to present his mid-year budget review statement tomorrow but that does not mean that our MPs cannot start asking questions now.

In fact, if they do that, they will also compel the minister, perhaps, to include responses to their concerns in his statement.

Mdzukulu, it is also doubtful that our MPs—known for prioritising other businesses than those they get allowances for when they get to Lilongwe— will take the current meeting as a priority.

Most of them are so pre-occupied with the May 21 elections that to them, nothing matters more than being physically in touch with their constituents and campaigning for re-election.

These include those who moved to other locations the moment they got elected to their positions in 2014. They are afraid of losing steam and giving room to their competitors to make inroads into areas they command much support.

But, at the end, it is Malawians who lose out. Their affairs are not taken care of. Their concerns on various issues including governance do not reach those who are supposed to act because MPs are not in the chamber.

We know that they cannot change. It is in their blood to put their interests first especially when it has to do with elections. They even frustrate their own regulations as long as they are the beneficiaries.

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