SEVERAL ministers illegally helped themselves to the US$15,000 payments in back-dated Parliamentary sitting allowances while scores of MPs were also paid for sessions they never attended, it has emerged.
The allowances covered the three-year period from 2008 to 2011 and were paid at the rate of US$75 per day. But Clerk of Parliament, Austin Zvoma confirmed that cabinet ministers were not supposed to have taken the money.
“Ministers are not entitled to Parliamentary sitting allowances because their salaries and allowances are catered for in their ministries even for their Parliamentary business,” he said.
According to The Herald, Ministers who took the payments include Walter Mzembi (Tourism and Hospitality Industry), Douglas Mombeshora (Health and Child Welfare Deputy Minister), Walter Chidhakwa (State Enterprises and Parastatals deputy minister), David Coltart (Education, Sport, Arts and Culture) as well as Higher and Tertiary Education Deputy Minister Lutho Tapela.
Finance Minister, Tendai Biti also benefitted from the funds along with Elton Mangoma (Energy and Power Development), Samuel Sipepa Nkomo (Water Resources Development and Management), Lucia Matibenga (Public Service), Tapiwa Mashakada (Economic Planning and Investment Promotion), Theresa Makone (Home Affairs) and Giles Mutsekwa (National Housing and Social Amenities).
Others include Eric Matinenga (Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs), Heneri Dzinotyiwei (Science and Technology), Jameson Timba (Prime Minister’s Office), Paurina Mpariwa (Labour and Social Welfare) and the late Public Service Minister Eliphas Mukonoweshuro.
The scandal may have cost government up to US$1 million after Treasury officials also failed to make sure that the MPs were only paid for the sessions they actually attended.
“To start with, any payments should have been premised on the number of sittings each legislator had, for a lump sum to be paid without regard to the number of sittings boggles the mind because that should never have been done,”Zvoma said.
“Any payments for Parliamentary business should have been done through Parliament. This was a violation of the rules, which resulted in mismanagement of public funds.
“However, it will be difficult to recover the money from ministers because they don’t claim anything from Parliament, while for the deceased and those who were expelled . . . the onus should be on those who gave them the money to recover it.”
Matinga said his Ministry had nothing to do with the payments.
“My ministry had nothing to do with those allowances except to disburse the money,” he said.
“As for the ministers who benefited from the allowances, I can’t comment because that was handled by the Office of the President and Cabinet.”