CDF not well thought out

Several honourable Members of Parliament (MPs) have recently been arrested for alleged abuse of the Constituency Development Fund allocated to their respective constituencies. This is something we expected to happen, given the manner in which the funds were dished out without any serious training of the MPs.

John Makumbe
John Makumbe

Somehow it was assumed that all the MPs would know how to handle these monies and how to account for them at the end of the financial year. In fact, it is quite surprising that to date, only 10 out of a total of 210 MPs seem to have failed to account for the funds. I would have expected that more than that number would have experienced problems, especially as the funds were distributed at the time MPs were not being given their allowances.

What then should have happened in order to prevent the MPs from abusing the funds? First, there should have been comprehensive consultations between the MPs and the Ministry of Finance officials on exactly what the funds should have been used for and how they should have been accounted for.

It is naivety to assume that all our MPs have any serious knowledge of public financial management. Consultations with the MPs would have revealed some of their short-comings and enabled them to be accorded due assistance.

Do’s and don’ts

Second, there should have been several workshops conducted for the MPs, aimed at clearly outlining the dos and don’ts pertaining to these monies. This was not done and the poor fellows walked into embarrassing trouble.

It is also at such a workshop that the reporting procedures and other requirements would have been explained to the honourable MPs well before the funds had been disbursed. That way, the MPs would have been made aware of their obligations to the national Treasury at the end of the period covered by the CDF.

As it turned out, some of the MPs used these funds to undertake dubious projects that simply helped to improve their visibility in their constituencies, but without significantly benefiting the constituents. There are some MPs who conducted meetings with their people in order to determine which projects to undertake, but unfortunately, there are many who did not do this.

One arrested honourable MP actually channelled some of the funds into his own company, thereby falling foul of the principle of conflict of interest. I doubt very much that the honourable MP had ever heard about “conflict of interest” prior to his arrest. The workshop mentioned above would have been helpful to the MPs to know what constitutes a conflict of interest and how to avoid falling foul of it.

There is currently a huge cry from honourable Senators for CDF allocations to be to them as well. This is clearly understandable since CDF resources enable the legislator to become more visible in their area. The people will tend to see them as individuals who “bring development” into their areas. Currently, the Senator is denied this wonderful privilege.

It does seem unfair, to be honest. But we have to take a close look at the composition of Senate before we rush to dish out the CDF to them. Considering that there are currently at least eighteen traditional chiefs in the Senate, it means that for the three or five years of being given CDF resources, these chiefs would significantly improve their home areas at the expense of all the other chiefs’ areas that do not have representation in Senate.

This would be very unfair. Perhaps the new constitution will help us strike some sort of balance or fairness with regard to the representation of some chiefs’ areas in the legislature wile others are excluded.

It is my fervent hope that the CDF will continue to be made available to MPs. The funds are needed given the lack of development in most parts of the country. It is, however, crucial that appropriate mechanisms and effective procedures be discussed and the MPs trained in their use if we are to avoid corruption among our legislators and the attendant embarrassment. At the moment it does not seem prudent to allocate any CDF resources to Senators. Some other way of helping these legislators to remain relevant may need to be invented.

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *