31 Oct 2009


By Damas Kanyabwoya, Dodoma

The National Assembly Speaker, Mr Samuel Sitta, has poured could water on an attempt by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to qualify 'lunch allowance' for MPs as corruption, terming it 'hospitality allowance' that is offered in accordance with African tradition.

The PCCB is investigating some MPs accused of receiving lunch allowances on top of their usual per diems while attending committee meetings outside their base.

Mr Sitta said there was nothing wrong for MPs to receive lunch allowances when attending seminars because even parliamentary rules and regulations permitted it.

Some MPs, especially from the energy and minerals committee, have reportedly been subjected under harsh interrogations from the PCCB on double payments, against the Parliament's wish that all allegations facing them be probed by the relevant House committee.

Mr Sitta said in Parliament in Dodoma yesterday that he was surprised that the simple issue of lunch allowancesattracted so much attention from, especially, from the mass media.

He wondered why the same journalists accepted lunch allowances whenever they participated in seminars involving MPs, if they knew it was illegal.

"Sauti Huru newspaper recently wrote that I, the Speaker of the House, defend dishonest MPs who have been accused of receiving double payments in allowances. But the papers fails to understand that the other allowance is just a lunch allowance given as hospitality to MPs in accordance with African cultures and values, he said.

Mr Sitta weighed into the matter after the morning question-and-answer session when he announced that MPs were invited to attend a seminar on Children's Bill organised by the ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children.

He said that lunch allowances would be provided during the seminar and encouraged the MPs to take it without any fear. "The protocol (allowances) will be observed, and this is not a sin because even parliamentary regulations recognize and permit such allowances," Mr Sitta said.

Mr Sitta was also not happy over the way the government has been handling the issue, noting that instead of concentrating on MPs' allowances, it needs to focus on sensitive issues such as Kilimo Kwanza and improving education.

The issue of double payments of allowances has been the subject of hard fought political battles between the Parliament and the Executive branch of Government.

MPs usually receive official daily allowances when they are on duty whether attending parliamentary sessions or committee meetings on top of their monthly salaries and other fringe benefits.

But it has also been the custom of the same MPs for a long time, to accept lunch allowances given by their hosts whenever they visit various government organs and parastatals or attend seminars or workshops organized various institutions.

Reports indicate that the Speaker has objected to PCCB's interrogations of MPs arguing that if there are any allegations of corruption among MPs they should be dealt with through Parliamentary channels.

Legislators also accuse the Government of political witch-hunting because it was only a handful of MPs, members of the Energy and Minerals committee subjected to interrogations, while the rest were left out.

Speaking to reporters in Dodoma on Tuesday this week Kyela MP Dr Harrison Mwakyembe said he refused to be interrogated because, according to him, there was nothing wrong with accepting lunch or even lodging allowances given by various government agencies to MPs.

The PCCB is the champion of providing such allowances to MPs whenever it conducts seminars for MPs. They recently provided lodging for me in Dar es Salaam during one of their seminars despite the fact that I am the resident of the city. They should start investigating themselves first, he said.

But it is reported that the Government insists that the MPs alleged to have received double payments should be interrogated


SOURCE: The Citizen

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