The State House has complained that Members of Parliament are blackmailing President Joyce Banda by stalling parliamentary deliberations in order to force her to submit to their demand to pocket K10 million each in fuel allowance arrears dating back to 2009.
“People must know what is happening is that the opposition MPs are trying to blackmail the President and her government,” said Presidential Press Secretary Steve Nhlane in an interview yesterday, adding that the President has simply said no as that is not possible.
President Banda has since warned that the MPs risk losing in the 2014 elections if they stick to their demands.
The State house warning comes after the civil society umbrella body, Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), has asked Banda to stop commenting on the MPs’ demand, as it will jeopardise deliberations in the ongoing parliamentary sitting.
“There is no way the President can stop commenting on the issue because it is political. It is unethical and borne out of ill intention,” he said.
Nhlane said those agitating for the fuel allowances are opposition MPs, the majority of them from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
He said all the President is doing, is explaining to Malawians that by refusing to pass bills in Parliament, the opposition MPs are shooting themselves in the foot.
“They are digging their own graves like what happened in 2009 elections when the majority of opposition MPs never made it to Parliament and the opposition presidential candidates lost miserably in the elections,” he said before asking:
“Were they not MPs in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 why did they not demand the fuel allowances in all these years when they were in the ruling party? Why now?”
HRCC Chairperson Undule Mwakasungula said in an interview that failure to pay the MPs their fuel allowance is an issue of the Executive not wanting to deal with the issue as definitely that would have been included in the last national budget.
Mwakasungula argued that the MPs should not mix the issue of fuel allowance with Parliament business because these are two different issues.
“My appeal is for the MPs to separate the two. Let them continue to discuss on their perks with the Executive while they are discussing and passing important bills which will improve the welfare of Malawians,” advised Mwakasungula.
Chairperson of a parliamentary task force on the matter, DPP’s Nick Masebo, argued that their predecessors received money even after the dissolution of Parliament and even when the 2009 general elections had been held.
“The question should not be where we have been all this time, if anything; we can as well ask the government why all this time they never paid us the allowances? As MPs we have been very lenient with government,” Masebo said.
Government through the Ministry of finance, however, says its understanding of the 2009 ruling was that it was applying to that year’s budget only since it provided for that fuel.
“Subsequent budgets after 2009 never provided for these fuel arrears,” argued Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya.
He further explained that each ministry and department is responsible for preparing its own budget estimates which are submitted to Treasury for further analysis and resource allocation and the National Assembly has so far not provided for these fuel arrears.
President Banda last Monday said during a rally she addressed after inspecting crops in the area of Traditional Authority Makata in Lunzu, Blantyre that her government will not submit to demands from the MPs in view of the country’s ailing economy.