Tuesday, February 09, 2010

K5bn NCC allowances is robbery - Inonge Wina

K5bn NCC allowances is robbery - Inonge Wina
By George Chellah, Chibaula Silwamba and George Zulu
Tue 09 Feb. 2010, 08:00 CAT

INONGE Wina yesterday described Vice-President George Kunda's justification of his recommendation to Cabinet to pay about K5 billion to ministers and other Lusaka-based parliamentarians attending the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) as robbery.

And well-placed sources at Cabinet Office yesterday revealed that late president Levy Mwanawasa had rejected Kunda's proposal that ministers based in Lusaka should be paid facilitation allowances for attending the NCC.

Reacting to Vice-President Kunda's statement that the government is following financial regulations as they pay delegates to the NCC, Wina, who is former Nalolo member of parliament, said Vice-President’s proposal demonstrates lack of consideration for the poor by the MMD government.

"This act that Mr Kunda has taken will contribute to widening the gap between the poor and the policy makers who are already enjoying vestiges of power as well as wealth of this nation," she said.

Wina said the current trend being perpetrated by the government was entrenching poverty by promoting inequality and exclusion of most people from the opportunities and the resources that society had to offer.

"It's extremely unfair on the poor because as you know extreme poverty breeds frustration, humiliation and resentment that can be easily ignited to fuel unrest. So when Mr Kunda is justifying this allowance, I think he should know that every budget of a national nature should be scrutinised to see how it impacts to the poor and the rich," Wina said.

"Therefore, the back pay for Lusaka based ministers and members of parliament sitting at the NCC cannot be justified whatsoever. I would have seen a lot of justification if that money was paid to government retirees, for example, whose children are failing to attend school."

Wina said Vice-President Kunda's recommendation was not a mockery but robbery from the poor.
"Today our government is telling us about lack of resources to grant councils funds to unblock the sewer systems, to mend roads...the sewers that have caused flooding in our Lusaka townships where some of its residents have to Kuomboka to dry land. This is extremely embarrassing," Wina said. "Today we are busy counting the deaths from cholera as a result of contaminated water in the townships. It seems like the MMD government enjoys hearing these stories of cholera every year."

Wina said the MMD government would truly leave a legacy of cholera in the country.

"And the story of cholera has now become a norm and part of the MMD administration. How do women care for their families with no ways to sanitise their drinking water? People in our communities contract illness that can be fatal," Wina said. "So the K5 billion given to ministers could go a long way in saving lives of some of these children in distress.

And let me say that the many hardships that we face today are really directly linked to MMD policies that take away resources from public works and from the poor to reward the party's high-ranking functionary and their supporters. But I think the MMD should be warned that a day will come when they will be made to account for all this."

And sources from Cabinet Office revealed that at the inception of the NCC, Kunda proposed that Lusaka-based parliamentarians and ministers should be paid facilitation allowance but Mwanawasa and Ng'andu Magande as finance minister rejected that, arguing that it was not necessary to pay hefty allowances to ministers who live in government houses and use government vehicles to go to the NCC.

The sources said Mwanawasa had summoned Kunda and Magande over the issue and that during the meeting with Mwanawasa, Kunda failed to justify his demand for the payment of allowances.

The source revealed that Mwanawasa had challenged the ministers that wanted the NCC allowances to resign their ministerial positions so that they could be getting the allowances or remain as ministers and never get the facilitation allowances.

"This is not a new demand. Mr Kunda proposed it at first, but it was rejected,” the source said.

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