Members of Parliament caught in allowance scam

 

Parliament Secretariat has been embroiled in financial mismanagement with an audit query for the year ended June 2013 showing that some legislators were paid allowances for business not undertaken and others claimed double allowances, among others.

Members of Parliament (MPs) under the Public Accounts Committee have since expressed concern over misallocation of funds and payments of items without supporting documents at Parliament Secretariat, describing the development as unfortunate.

Kalemba (L) and her team

Parliament Secretariat appeared before the committee to answer audit queries for the year ending June 2013.

During the meeting, members noted that misappropriation of funds, poor filing systems and payment of items without supporting documents—which has been a common case in other government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs)—the committee met did not spare Parliament.

Rumphi West MP Kamlepo Kalua (People’s Party-PP), who is deputy chairperson of the committee, said it was worrisome that the shortfalls were also prevalent at Parliament where laws forbidding such mismanagement come from it.

He said: “I am worried that these things are happening at this institution, even though the Auditor General says they are aware of the problems, but this is worrisome.”

In the year under review, Parliament is reported to have misallocated K91 857 027. 52, paid about K55 million to Sunbird Capital for catering services without evidence of contract agreement, payment of vouchers without documentary evidence totalling about K14 million, unrecorded fuel at about K4 million and irregular payment of allowances to MPs at K309 320. 00.

In the audit query, Parliament was ALSO asked how some MPs were paid for subsistence allowance and wear and tear for activities they did not attend and some were erroneously paid double allowances. The query noted that some of the money has not been recovered yet as the legislators who got the money were no longer in Parliament.

The committee asked the Clerk of Parliament (CoP) Fiona Kalemba, who is also the controlling officer, to inform the committee if they have recovered K136 480 irregularly paid to Abele Kayembe for a committee meeting he was supposed not to attend.

The committee also asked if Parliament recovered money from Stanley Chalera who was also paid double allowance of K172 840.

In her response, Kalemba said the money was not recovered as the member is no longer a sitting MP for the current Parliament, a situation that makes it difficult to recover.

However, she said Chalera was notified that the money will be deducted from his account.

Said Kalemba: “I sincerely regret that we did not recover the money in time. It is possible to recover from Chalera because he retained his seat while with Kayembe we are still looking at how we can recover it.”

On the other queries, Kalemba apologised to the committee for the misallocation saying her department had to use the funds because they were strained with emergency programmes and meetings which needed urgent money.

She said they wrote the Treasury to seek permission to spend some funds, but Treasury did not respond to them in time; hence, their going ahead with the expenditure.

Said Kalemba: “I wish to agree that the funds were misallocated and I sincerely regret the anomaly.

“All this happened because of the pressure that was there like the emergency meetings for some committees which meant we needed to cater for catering, cleaning  and security services, plus reimbursements for those meeting. The pressure did not leave us with any option, we wrote the Treasury but without a response we spent the money that was there.”

However, committee chairperson Alekeni Menyani said despite the justification given by Kalemba the misallocation should have been avoided.

He said: “We are still worried with what happened. I think the secretariat will really improve and let us one day tour the filing system to appreciate what happens here.” n

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