Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya is in a dilemma on the way forward regarding his two deputies the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) has found were unlawfully claiming house rent from the public purse.
The Speaker, who chairs the PSC, on Wednesday could only say the law is silent on how to deal with stray speakers or deputy speakers.
He said the powers to discipline the speaker and deputy speakers rest with the National Assembly.
Said Msowoya: “The matter can be discussed at the next sitting of Parliament should there be a need.”
PSC last week wrote First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Chilenje and Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya informing them that effective September 2015, Parliament will revert to paying them their legal entitlement of housing allowance pegged at K250 000.
The two were getting K300 000 on top of their entitlement after presenting to Parliament Secretariat information that they were renting their respective houses in Lilongwe.
However, investigations by our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation, established that both Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya owned their respective houses in Lilongwe through leases from Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) since February 23 2002 (for Mcheka-Chilenje) and June 2004 in the case of Chiwaya.
The revelations forced PSC to summon the duo to a hearing that resulted in the commission suspending payment of rent and instead settling for housing allowance.
On Wednesday, two lawyers said authorities need to open thorough investigations to establish blameworthiness and culpability of the two in the housing allowance saga so that an appropriate disciplinary action can be taken.
Edge Kanyongolo, associate professor of law at Chancellor College (Chanco), a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), said in an interview the questions the public continue to raise about the integrity of the two deputy speakers should be enough yardstick to guide PSC on what action to take against the duo.
But Kanyongolo emphasised that PSC should endeavour to recover what Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya “unjustly got from taxpayers”.
He said: “Anything short of that will set a very bad precedent for future occupants of these offices.”
Ironically, the October 9 2015 letter from acting Clerk of Parliament Renard Mapemba to the two deputy speakers said the commission had resolved that effective September 2015, they will be paid a monthly housing allowance of K250 000 each.
But private practice lawyer, Justin Dzonzi, said in an interview the PSC resolution would be a great disservice to taxpayers if it means merely correcting the anomaly without imposing drastic measures to deter would-be culprits.
He said the commission and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) need to institute thorough investigations to establish if the two deputy speakers committed some criminal offences by getting what was not due to them.
Said Dzonzi: “Because if they committed some criminal offences by their action, my opinion is that they are not fit to serve in their current positions as that may have a bearing on the integrity of the offices they are holding.”
He also asked the commission to “demand a full refund [of the money] Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya illegally drew from government coffers.”
Both Mcheka-Chilenje and Chiwaya did not pick their phones yesterday after several attempts.
However, they are on record as having earlier denied committing any offence. n