Deputy speakers tight-lipped

 

First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje and Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya have ignored the request by Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to explain their side of the house rental claims saga, opting to remain silent.

In separate interviews on Thursday, the duo said they feel it is not proper for them to explain to PSC as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is investigating the issue.

Chiwaya: Revised conditions of service are clear
Chiwaya: Revised conditions of service are clear

Two weeks ago, our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation, reported that Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya were drawing house rentals from Parliament despite residing in own houses.

The two have been claiming house rentals of K550 000 per month instead of K250 000 housing allowance for officers living in their own houses.

In reaction to the revelations, PSC, in a letter dated August 11 2015 and signed by its chairperson, Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya, asked the two to respond to the newspaper article published on August 8 2015 that stated they were drawing illegal house allowances because they owned the houses they declared to Parliament as official residences.

But in an interview on Thursday, Mcheka-Chilenje said she was afraid any comments she may make could prejudice ACB’s investigations.

Mcheka-Chilenje: I will not fight my battles in the media
Mcheka-Chilenje: I will not fight my battles in the media

When put to her that her comments were crucial as the matter was in the public domain, Mcheka-Chilenje said: “My conscience on this matter has always been clear from the word go. I will not fight my battles in the media. You may wish to check my conditions of service.”

On the other hand, Chiwaya questioned the PSC’s motive to seek an explanation from him on the issue he said is “well covered” in his conditions of service.

He said he cannot sell his integrity by drawing from government purse something he does not deserve, adding he has chosen not to say anything to PSC because doing so would interfere with ACB investigations into the matter.

Chiwaya, who said much as he did not want to comment much on the matter, nowhere in his conditions of service does it state whether one is living in his own house or not.

He said as revised on July 13 2014 by the PSC, the Speaker of Parliament receives K750 000 monthly as housing allowance from K450 000 while his deputies and leader of the opposition in Parliament receive K550 000 monthly from K150 000.

He said he was restraining himself to talk much because politics was at play.

Mangochi Monkey Bay member of Parliament (MP) Ralph Jooma, who was assigned by the Speaker to speak on behalf of PSC, said in an interview yesterday the commission would meet and decide the way forward should the duo insist on not giving their side of the story.

He said: “But the way I know the two [Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya], that is not what I expected from them. I expected them to say something, but if that is what they have chosen, as a commission, we will find a way forward.”

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