Immediate past National Assembly Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda could get an unprecedented retirement package closer to that of ex-State vice-presidents thanks to a “Former Speaker” office that the Legislature has created.
In separate interviews yesterday, Acting Clerk of Parliament Roosevelt Gondwe, Secretary for Human Resource Management and Development Sam Madula and Chimunthu Banda himself confirmed the new post and some vacancies under it.
A letter dated May 19 2014 from the Secretary for Human Resource Management and Development to the Clerk of Parliament that Nation on Sunday has seen, authorises the National Assembly to create posts for the office of Former Speaker.
“I am pleased to convey government approval to enable you fill vacant posts as follows: 1x Former Speaker [Grade SP], 1x motor vehicle driver [Grade N], 1x cook (Grade Q) and 1x gardener [Grade Q],” reads the letter in part, signed by George Zimba on behalf of the department’s secretary.
It was not immediately clear on Friday whether Chimunthu Banda is the only beneficiary or if other former Speakers such as Sam Mpasu, Louis Chimango and Davis Katsonga as well as previous Deputy Speakers will benefit as well.
Gondwe said: “I can confirm in principle that the National Assembly will be providing the retirement package to the Former Speaker of the National Assembly,” adding that the Department of Human Resources Management and Development (DHRMD) is in a better position to provide details.
On his part, Madula said he was aware of the National Assembly’s proposal to establish the office of the Former Speaker, but said the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) was better placed to provide details.
Officials from OPC were not immediately available for comment yesterday.
Speaking from Nigeria in an e-mail interview yesterday, Chimunthu Banda said it was former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika who approved the enhancement of the office of the Speaker. Chimunthu Banda said only Speakers who completed a full five-year term qualify and by that yard stick, he was the only one.
He said historically, between 1964 and 1994, conditions of service for the Speaker were similar to those of Cabinet ministers.
“It is in the new dispensation that the conditions began to improve to be commensurate with the status of the office. On July 20 2005, the House resolved to enhance the status of the Speaker through a motion moved by the late Aleke Banda, which was unanimously agreed to by the House,” said Chimunthu Banda.
He said this was part of the reforms programme that Parliament undertook.
“Among several aspects that were to be reformed was the usage of the honorific Right Honourable, which meant the officeholder would use the title Rt. Honourable for the rest of his or her life. Therefore, His Honour, Right Honourable Louis Chimango, became the first person to use such a title.
“Conditions of service are, therefore, determined by the President from time to time. This could be either at the beginning of the term or in the course of the term. The late President Bingu wa Mutharika further enhanced the terms and conditions of service which you are referring to,” he said.
Commenting on the development, Sam Mpasu, another ex-Speaker, welcomed the idea of establishing the office of the former Speaker, but hoped that the move should be extended all previous speakers.
According to our source at the National Assembly, the current salary of the Speaker of National Assembly is K1.5 million a month.
It is, however, not known how much a former Speaker would be getting as a retirement package.
Governance commentator Chris Chisoni of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) said yesterday the establishment of the office of the former Speaker will be a drain on public resources and need to be widely debated before it is implemented.