The National Assembly is yet to settle some bills accrued through embattled Clerk of Parliament (CoP) Matilda Katopola with revelations that since October 2012 the bill for her car rental alone has accumulated to K5.5 million, Malawi News can reveal.

Chief Parliamentary spokesperson Leonard Mengezi confirmed the development, describing the issue as ‘inevitable occurrence’.

Katopola, who is answering graft charges, has been using a rented Toyota Fortuner from Countrywide Car Hire for which the august House has been spending K1.5 million per month.

Sources within the National Assembly, who opted for anonymity for fear of reprisals, claimed that Parliament is currently in financial burden and is failing to pay some of its debtors due to funding challenges.

“Everyone here is surprised that lots of public money continues to go down the drain on the CoP who has not been in office for the past seven months. It is even more worrying that she continues to influence decisions at Parliament although she is suspended. Why can’t this kind of spending be stopped as Parliament is currently struggling to keep itself afloat?” wondered the source.

According to the source, Katopola is still getting her 500 litres of fuel every month besides being on full pay of K745,000 – including allowances – and has another official car, a Toyota Camry, among other benefits.

But Mengezi, while confirming that Parliament is in debt over car rental for Katopola, said the decision to continue according the suspended CoP her full entitlements was in line with advice from the Attorney General’s office.

“Due to price increases of various goods and services, it has been necessary to rationalise available resources. It was therefore inevitable to accumulate a bill of some kind,” he said. “The National Assembly provides for all contractual obligations in its annual estimates. A legal opinion was sought from the Attorney General on the matter and we were advised to continue paying the Clerk of Parliament all her monthly entitlements.”

Mengezi, however, insisted that the CoP was not interdicted and is technically still holding office.

“She is accordingly entitled to her benefits as may be determined by the Commission from time to time,” he said.

Our investigations further revealed that although Parliament has tried in the recent past to clear the bill incurred through Katopola, the amount keeps on soaring to the effect that the car hire company wanted to grab the car from her. Parliament has, however, negotiated with the company for her to keep the vehicle.

Government has revived a case in which Katopola is being accused of corruptly awarding a contract to her firm Monick Trends in 2007 for which former president Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned her. – by Archibald Kasakura

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