'Govt not paying MPs sitting allowances'

HARARE - The cash-strapped government has not been paying members of the eighth Parliament sitting allowances since the beginning of their five-year mandate in August last year.

MPs from across the political divide who spoke to the Daily News yesterday accused the Zanu PF government of giving preferential treatment to its ministers who it allegedly acquired luxury vehicles for recently.

In contrast, the legislators have not been allocated a single vehicle since they assumed office seven months ago and they are livid.

“We have not been allocated vehicles since we began our term. Government has also not paid us our sitting allowances from August last year yet we hear they have availed top-of the range vehicles for Cabinet ministers and their deputies. It not fair because we also have families to take care of and I feel sorry for colleagues who have rural constituencies to visit,” said MDC MP for Chitungwiza North, Godfrey Sithole.

The 350 MPs in the august house are entitled to about $75 in allowances for every sitting in the House or in committees.

Given that the august house has 19 portfolio and six thematic committees which have been convening almost daily plus the house sittings, the total amount MPs are owed since 2013 could run into tens of thousands of dollars.

The MPs are also entitled to vehicles which they obtain on loan, payable during the subsistence of their term.

Other MPs, particularly those in remote rural constituencies that are sometimes inaccessible, have even taken advantage of the ongoing parliamentary debate on corruption to register their displeasure calling on government to provide them with vehicles to enable them to effectively carry out their duties.

Contributing to a motion on corruption moved by Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya last week, Buhera Central Member of Parliament Ronald Muderedzwa said corruption is rife in Zimbabwe because Parliament is too weak to act owing to poor funding.

“This weakening of this Parliament is deliberate and we strongly appeal to government to ensure that the balance of power really prevails. Honourable Members who have debated in this House were proffering solutions to curb corruption,” he said.

Government has been arguing that Treasury has no money for essential projects.

Austin Zvoma, the clerk of Parliament yesterday said he was in a meeting when he was contacted for comment.

Zanu PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo told the Daily News that all was not well with the economy and that even companies were struggling to pay their employees.

“Can that be a story worth telling?  It is not surprising that we have not had sitting allowances because it is common knowledge that government is broke, it has no money,” Gumbo said.

“As MPs we continue to come to work regardless. If you check the attendance, it is overwhelming because the good thing is that government has not refused to pay, there is simply no money,” he added.

Government also still owes Members of the seventh Parliament whose allowances have not been fully paid.

But last month government reportedly bought Mercedes Benz E350 sedans, Toyota Land Cruisers and Range Rover Sport vehicles for 10 provincial ministers and 24 deputy ministers.

The vehicles cost an estimated $130 000 for a Mercedes Benz and up to $160 000 for the Range Rover Sport and $140 000 for a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Another $20 million has also reportedly been spent on top-of-the-range vehicles for its 26 Cabinet ministers.

The same government is also struggling to pay civil servants who are yet to receive their backdated salary increments despite making several promises to do so. Compounding the situation is the fact that social service delivery is in reverse mode with essential sectors such hospitals and schools underfunded.

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