No kid gloves on Constituency Development Fund

No kid gloves on Constituency Development FundAdvocate Mudenda

Zvamaida Murwira Mr Speaker Sir
Parliament’s directive last week to Members of Parliament who got Constituency Development Fund to submit proof of expenditure shows that gone are the days where legislators would easily get away with abuse of taxpayers money.

Mr Speaker Sir, your directive in the National Assembly to legislators to account for the $50 000 CDF they got is progressive in that MPs should be measured with the same yardstick they use on other Government ministries and departments in executing their oversight role.

For those who might have missed the directive, Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda directed as follows last week: “I have to inform the House that Honourable Members, who have received CDF funds for constituency projects are reminded to submit their monthly, quarterly and annual returns to Parliament Management Committee in terms of Article 524 of the Accounting Officers Instructions. The documents to be submitted include, but are not limited to:-

  1. a) returns of expenditure;
  2. b) returns of bank reconciliation statements;
  3. c) returns of assets purchased; and
  4. d) project job cards.”

The directive, it would be recalled Mr Speaker Sir, was received with pockets of disapproval.

Others, however, placed their concerns on record.

Warren Park MP Engineer Elias Mudzuri (MDC-T) rose to say that the CDF did not provide for stipends for those, who would have done secretarial work like balancing accounting books.

“On the CDF, Mr Speaker Sir, on the accounting manual and on the process of running this account, there is no room for employing an accounting officer. You will find out that the Member of Parliament becomes the accounting officer.

There is no one to do the errands and there is no room even to buy fuel or telephone allowances. There must be that allowance where you have to allow for employment of somebody who runs the accounts. It is very difficult for non-accounting officers to be able to do it,” said Eng Mudzuri.

Bindura South MP Cde Remigio Matangira (zanu-pf) complained about the requirement of a job card.

“The Constituency Development Fund, small as it is in a constituency, when we talk about a job card, what it means is, you will have to engage people who will do the job.

“It will cost more than the $50 000 that we are getting as a development fund. It is going to be done by the communities for them to feel that they own it. So, the job card part, I think must fall off,” he said.

It will be recalled Mr Speaker Sir that you promised to look into the issues raised by legislators.

That being said Mr Speaker Sir, the point remains that there is need to enforce maximum security measures to ensure accountability.

In other words, what Parliament leadership through presiding officers has done is commendable.

The country does not need a repeat of reports of abuse of CDF where money was being diverted into MPs’ pockets at the expense of communities.

Parliament ought, Mr Speaker Sir, to continue to be tough on legislators and demand accountability.

Legislators should be the first to know that accountability is the cornerstone of democracy and nation building because they have been in the forefront of holding Government ministers and departments to account.

They should embrace the kind of accounting benchmarks that have been set for them.

While some of the issues they raised, Mr Speaker Sir, might be valid, the point that taxpayers money must be put to good use must be the guiding principle as they utilise the CDF.

As presiding officers and administrators of Parliament, it is critical, Mr Speaker Sir that you implement to the letter and spirit the CDF constitution to ensure that the money is properly utilised.

One thing that is, however, saddening Mr Speaker Sir is that the Executive has taken long to bring the CDF Bill to Parliament.

Bringing the law would have gone a long way in invoking criminal sanctions against those who abuse CDF.

It will be recalled, Mr Speaker Sir, that one of the bottlenecks that was cited as to why those MPs implicated for abuse of CDF have not been brought to account, was that there were no adequate legal instruments to charge the culprits.

While others said the offending MPs could be charged with fraud, others maintained that there were gaps in the law to successfully charge legislators under such circumstances.

It was on that basis that CDF Bill was proposed, but up to now it has not been tabled.

It is, however, commendable that Parliament did not fold its arms, but came up with internal mechanisms to ensure proper utilisation of the money through CDF constitution where legislators were invited to give their inputs to ensure efficient administration of the   fund.

It is hoped, Mr Speaker Sir, that the mechanisms that Parliament has put in place will achieve the intended objectives of ensuring   transparency.

Judging by what has been happening, where MPs were struggling to access the money owing to the stringent conditions, it shows that Parliament is equal to the challenge at hand to ensure proper and efficient utilisation of the money.