By Daniel Chigundu
Speaker of National Assembly Jacob Mudenda says funds allocated to Parliament in the 2017 National Budget are worrisome and serves to undermine its authority and mandate.
The financially hamstrung Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated a measly US$30.7 million to the legislature from his uninspiring US$4.1 billion proposed budget.
Addressing legislators and delegates during the post-budget seminar, Mudenda said the allocation makes it hard for Parliament to do its work and it also raises questions over the sincerity of separation of powers in the country.
“As administrators of Parliament we are extremely alarmed at the evidently paltry budget allocation to Parliament, it is worrisome to note that the oversight authority and independence of Parliament was seriously undermined by the inadequate budgetary allocation of US$30.7 million, which represents 0.75 percent of total national budget.
“Now theoretically this raises questions on the sincerity of the concept of separation of powers given that Parliament, which is the backbone of the constitutional democracy and constitutionalism is treated as a distant poor arm of government among the three arms of State,” he said.
Legislators in the country are in agreement that they are largely treated like second class citizens compared to the executive and the judiciary.
Last year foreign affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi denied MPs diplomatic passports arguing that they don’t deserve them, yet the executive and judiciary are given.
Since 2013, when the eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe was voted in, MPs are yet to receive their sitting allowances and even their fuel allocation has been erratic, compared to their counterparts.
The Speaker said the onus to send the right messages lies with legislators themselves as they are aware of their importance, adding that respect is earned and not freely given.
“There is no civilized country in the world that is not governed by laws and these laws are made by Parliament. I think what is important here is that it is us (MPs) who sometimes don’t send the message about our importance as Parliament.
“Honourable Members respect of an institution is earned; it’s not given on a silver platter. It is inconsiderable therefore to note that Parliament got an allocation equivalent to some small department in certain ministries,
“With such pittance the institution of parly will not be sufficiently geared to fulfill its constitutional mandate of oversight, legislative and representative roles, this is particularly sad given the need to fully operationalise the recently established parliament budget office in line with Africa and beyond,” Mudenda added.
Video: Parliament Post-Budget Seminar
Parliament reportedly owes its staff millions of dollars and requires large sums of money to finance capacity building of members of staff and MPs to enable them to be more effective and efficient when discharging their constitutional mandate.
The Speaker also bemoaned the lack of clarity and logistical arrangement of disbursement of the Parliamentary Constituency Development Fund, as the country gears for 2018 polls.