The European Union (EU)-funded K98 billion project with Parliament is in limbo following a decision by the donors to suspend the project after Members of Parliament (MPs) demanded more allowances to attend its meetings.

The Support to Parliament and Media to Strengthen Governance in the Agriculture Sector project is being implemented by Niras, an international consultancy firm, as a capacity-building project that aims to strengthen governance, specifically through Parliament and the media.

The project falls under the EU’s €120 million (about K97.4 billion) Kulima project.

In its meetings with relevant stakeholders under the project, the firm was providing a K30, 000 per diem to cater for accommodation and K10, 000 for transport.

It has been established that a meeting for parliamentarians that was scheduled for Salima in the recent past weeks failed to take place as the law makers demanded that the firm should increase allowances for them.

Sources indicated that the firm resorted to ask the MPs to provide receipts for fuel and accommodation to be compensated at the meeting, which the MPs refused to honor and since declined to attend the meeting all together.

In an email, Team leader for SPMS Gag Theresa Davies declined to comment on the matter as yet.

“Unfortunately, in the meantime, the project cannot make a comment,” Davies said.

But in an exclusive interview the EU Ambassador to Malawi Sandra Paesen bemoaned the tendency of Malawian partners looking for allowances in development meetings that are aimed to benefit very citizen.

“It’s our job to be extremely orthodox when we spend our money as the EU, we have rules, we have procedures and we have

regulations. Sometimes it’s difficult for our partners to understand that because they live in their realities and the realities here in Malawi are such that everyone with a certain standing has huge social responsibilities.

“Malawians are cohesive, they take care of each other, a notion that in Europe we do not remember very well. Sometimes when we work with our partners, be it from Parliament, civil society or ministerial bodies, they always come to the issue we need to have per diems and that is understandable because there are other expenses and we have rules that cover this but sometimes people say no we want you to adopt our rules because there are more generous and we say no and I am not happy when my colleagues come to me with such stories,” Paesen said.

Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Chairperson Sameer Suleman said he was aware of a meeting scheduled for Salima that was postponed twice recently but was not sure if it were the EU meeting.

He, however, was quick to say that most organisations arrange allowances that are lower than MPs’ sitting allowance.

“I know these organisations give K30, 000, sometimes K20, 000 allowances, which is lower than the K60, 000 sitting allowance for MPs because these people (MPs) travel from their constituencies to attend such meetings, so it doesn’t make sense, not that I am complaining,” Suleman said.

In 2016, the donor community wrote the Office of the President and Cabinet following civil servants’ boycott of donor-funded workshops and meetings because they were not given daily subsistence allowances.

The donors complained that the development was resulting in waste of donor taxpayers’ money, knowledge gap and failure to improve service delivery to the people of Malawi.

They since requested the Malawi Government to endorse a full-board arrangement where civil servants attending donor-funded activities were not to be paid cash or risk aid withdrawal for the projects.

Malawi and EU signed in May 2015 the national indicative program up to 2020 for an amount of 560 million to support program spread across governance, sustainable agriculture and secondary education and vocational training.

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