Ministers’ US$20m controversial allowances not budgeted for – Mliswa
CONTROVERSY over the huge housing allowances for Zimbabwean ministers and deputy ministers has deepened amid revelations the money was not budgeted for in the first place.
This is according to chairperson of the parliamentary welfare committee Temba Mliswa (pictured), who is also Norton independent member of Parliament.
“In terms of utility, there is no problem with MPs getting US$40 000 housing allowances as part of their packages because it’s entirely necessary for them to carry out their duties. MPs work hard looking after their constituencies and their people, passing laws and budgets for the country to move forward,” Mliswa told The NewsHawks.
“In the process, they spend hours at work and travelling on duty. So they deserve to be rewarded, especially given that they earn ZW$75 000 a month (US$100 in real terms). They are struggling. I speak with authority because I know the situation as chairperson of the parliamentary welfare committee.
“It is not all of them who are like me; with a big house, a farm and doing business. Some are really struggling. How do you expect them do their work if they are not looked after by government?”
However, Mliswa said the case of ministers is different from that of ordinary MPs.
“Ministers got US$500 000 and deputy ministers US$350 000, but that was not budgeted for. MPs’ allowances were budgeted for. Besides the US$40 000, MPs also got US$50 000 for cars.
We were supposed to get US$80 000, but we were given US$50 000. That means there is a balance of US$30 000. The accommodation issue for MPs is a serious matter that needs to be addressed.
“People must remember that for MPs this is not free money. These are loans guaranteed by our pensions. If you don’t pay back, you lose your pension. But for ministers, it’s a different story; that was not budgeted for.”
While the President enjoys use of Zimbabwe House as his residence and State House in Harare, vice-presidents also get houses (when they were still two).
President Emmerson Mnangagwa had a house built for him in Borrowdale, but it was abandoned before completion. The incomplete house is at the corner of Crowhill and Wheeldon roads in Borrowdale suburb.
Mnangagwa relocated from 355 El Shaddai Road in Helensvale to Zimbabwe House, opposite State House.
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga got a house built for him at Carrick Creagh Estate in Borrowdale. Former co-Vice-President Kembo Mohadi lives on Folyjon Crescent in Glen Lorne suburb, Harare.
MPs say the US$40 000 they got is not enough to buy a house, especially in Harare and Bulawayo, so they will use the money to buy stands to build houses.
Legislators also get sitting allowances and US$150 per day for hotel accommodation, but some want that in cash to make alternative lodging arrangements. Their sitting allowances were not being paid until recently when Zanu PF MPs went to meet Mnangagwa at State House over the issue.
In a letter dated 23 November to the clerk of Parliament, Mliswa says some MPs have opted to get the US$150 a day hotel allowance to stay in private accommodation.
“As you may be aware, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon Mthuli Ncube has announced at the pre-budget seminar that Honourable Members of Parliament may opt to stay in private accommodation at a rate of USD150 per day,” the letter says.
“This letter serves to officially inform you that as an honourable member, I have opted for private accommodation at the aforesaid rate with effect from 21 November 2022. To that end, I will be submitting my claim at the end of this month.”
While some people agree MPs need accommodation, cars and sitting allowances, the majority disagree.
They are opposed to profligacy while people are suffering and critical professionals like doctors, nurses and teachers are struggling as they earn peanuts.
MPs, however, feel entitled to what they are demanding.
“Do MPs need accommodation during the course of doing public business? Yes, they do. Do we need cars to visit our constituencies and attend parliamentary business? Yes, we do. Do we need to be paid sitting allowances? Yes, we do,” one MP told The NewsHawks.
“But the problem seems to be that people are quarrelling with the type of cars we buy and the amounts we get. However, I agree with Mliswa that we deserve the payments. Yes we understand the people are suffering out there, but condemning MPs deeper into poverty is not going to make the people’s situation any better. What is wrong is profligacy or wastefulness, but we are talking about basics for MPs here. As for ministers, that is a different issue. Their situation borders on luxury — a housing allowance for US$500 000, it’s not justified in this situation.”
Ministers and deputy ministers together drew over US$20 million from the fiscus.
MPs got US$14 million, but if ministers and their deputies are subtracted from the MPs to avoid double-dipping, the amount goes down to US$12.7 million.
In a series of tweets over the issue, Mliswa said: “MPs are the headmasters who watch over other arms of state. Why are we unsettled with their lesser benefits even against the humongous allocations for ministers & dep ministers US$500K & US$350K respectively? Certain things are obligatory for certain positions! It’s paradoxical that we require effective representation, but are not willing to fund it. Again, not all MPs are personally capacitated to function using personal resources. They need it.
“We are on PSMAS medical aid and it doesn’t work. Fees we pay for ourselves. Ministers got US$500 000, deputy ministers US$350 000. We get US$40 000 and suddenly everyone is an economist attacking us! We are the poor and dull cousins who gives more and gets less in return really. How can we be effective in positions of oversight over the executive and other arms of gvt when we are not capacitated? Look at what the judiciary and the executive gets. How do you oversee such arms of gvt from a position of dire poverty?”
He added: “It’s also unfortunate that people operate with a mindset that MPs shouldn’t be supported in accordance with their offices and obligations. Every role and job has conditions of service. These are part of that. Why should the role of being an MP be dangerous, risky & yet thankless?
“Again, initially and as approved in the budget, MPs had been given US$80 000 for cars. However, they acquired vehicles for US$50 000, leaving a US$30K change. It’s part of that figure. Just want to provide context and an explanation about the US$40 000 to be given to legislators. I’m the chairperson of the welfare committee pressure group. That figure isn’t a gift, but it’s a loan.”
However, main opposition CCC leader Nelson Chamisa has slammed MPs over the issue. Members of the public also condemned MPs for seeking luxury and being creatures of comfort, while people are suffering.
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