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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 26 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
June 13, 2012

Introduction

The House adopted the motion on the Presidential Speech yesterday. Members also debated the first report of the Media Information Communication Technology Portfolio Committee on the state of the public media in the country. The Chairperson of the Local Government Committee, Hon. Lynnette Karenyi presented the Committee’s Second Report on the management irregularities at the transport utility Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO).

The Senate resumed sitting yesterday after a month-long break.

Plenary proceedings in the House of Assembly

Debate on the Motion in Reply to the Presidential Speech

Hon. Patrick Zhuwao (ZANU PF Zvimba East) wound up his motion on reply to the Presidential speech. In winding up his motion, Hon. Zhuwao angered MDC-T MPs throwing jibes at them. Hence when the motion was called for adoption MDC-T MPs rejected it on account of Hon. Zhuwao’s behavior. ZANU PF Chief Whip, Hon. Jorum Gumbo had to negotiate with his MDC-T counterpart Hon. Innocent Gonese appeal to his members to reverse their decision. The motion was finally adopted by the House.

In winding up his motion Hon. Zhuwao said the 7th Parliament particularly the 4th Session was the worst session of parliament in terms of legislation output. He also criticized COPAC’s Draft Constitution for ignoring people’s views. He was ruled out of order by the Speaker for trying to pre-empt the work of COPAC and was thus advised to shelve his comments on the Draft Constitution until it was tabled in Parliament.

Debate on the First Report of the Media, Information, Communication and Technology Portfolio Committee on the State of Public Media

First to debate the report was Hon. Felix Mafa Sibanda who accused the seconder of the motion Hon. Bright Matonga for distorting the Committee’s findings by giving his own personal views.

Other MDC-T MPs who debated the report lamented lack of media reforms especially the liberalization of the airwaves as directed by the Global Political Agreement (GPA). They alleged that the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Hon. Webster Shamu, was blocking media reforms despite directives by the Cabinet and the Party Principals for him to implement the agreed reforms. They also blasted the public media for skewed political coverage in favour of ZANU PF.

MPs across the political divide decried lack of adequate resources for the public media, a situation which has resulted in poor infrastructure and hence poor service delivery. Members noted that the sole signal carrier company, Transmedia, did not have capacity to discharge its mandate as most parts of the country were not receiving both radio and television signals yet they were expected to pay licence fees. MPs were also agreed that public media should strive to promote language and cultural diversity in the country.

Debate on the report will continue in today’s sitting.

Second Report of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government on the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO).

The Chairperson of the Local Government, Hon. Lynnette Karenyi presented the Committee’s Second Report on the management irregularities at the transport utility Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO). The report noted that principles of good corporate governance were non-existant at ZUPCO as some members of management doubled up as board members and vice versa. As a result, procedures were flouted. The report also noted that ZUPCO employees have gone without pay for a long time. Some of the employees have since resigned and are still battling to get their outstanding salaries and terminal benefits. The report also reveals that ZUPCO has not been remitting employees pension contributions to the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) despite deducting the contributions from the employees salaries every month.

PLENARY PROCEEDINGS IN THE SENATE

As indicated above, the Senate resumed its sitting yesterday and debated some motions which were already on the Order Paper, namely the First Report of the Thematic Committee on Human Rights regarding prison conditions and the motion on perennial drought in some parts of the country. Senators deplored prison conditions in most facilities in the country and urged government to move in quickly and address the situation.

Regarding food deficits in the country, Senators noted that the eastern and southern parts of the country were the hardest hit as most house-holds did not harvest anything due to prolonged dry-spells. While they appreciated the current efforts by government, through the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), to alleviate the food deficit in the affected parts of the country, they noted with concern the slow movement of grain from GMB depots to the affected areas. Senators also raised concern at the plight of livestock in the drought prone areas.

Update on the activities of the portfolio committees

Portfolio Committee on Budget Finance and Investment Promotion

Following its public hearings in Bulawayo and Harare on the operations of the State Procurement Board (SPB), the Committee heard oral evidence from the SPB Executive Chairman, Mr. Charles Kuwaza on Monday 11June 2012. The purpose of the meeting was to quiz the SPB on tender procedures as well as public allegations of corruption leveled against Board. Mr. Kuwaza informed the Committee that in executing its mandate, the SPB was guided by the Procurement Act. He said in terms of Section 5(2) of the aforementioned legislation, SPB was not subjected to the direction or control of any person or authority in the exercise of its functions except the President.

Regarding delays in the tender process, he informed the Committee that it was mainly due to the Accounting Officers who were not observing the 15 working day timeframe as most of them were submitting their recommendations in 60 working days. Some of the Accounting Officers were using consultants to carry out adjudication process on their behalf which further delayed the Board’s finalization of the process. He further blamed the delays on the fiscus disbursements which were not flowing timeously and resulted in rushed decisions by the Board.

Mr. Kuwaza also attributed some of the problems to the economic meltdown, which saw the Board losing quite a number of skilled professionals who were replaced by unskilled personnel. Some departments were still in the process of filling the vacancies. In order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of SPB Mr. Kuwaza said they have engaged COMESA, DFID, and ZIPAM to assist them to improve the capacity of its personnel.

Mr. Kuwaza informed the Committee, that looking forward they plan to wean some parastatals who have established excellent procurement procedures and processes in their organization and the SPB will only be responsible for auditing those parastatals. Parastatals such as Natpharm and NOCZIM have been identified for this process.

He further informed the Committee that the SPB has made great strides towards e-procurement with the assistance of donors. The SPB Executive Chairman said this will help in dispensing with paper work and thus improve efficiency as it will enable the signing of documents online.

Regarding auditing tender procedures, he admitted that the SPB has failed on this function over the years due to lack of capacity and man-power within the organization. As a result, SPB ended up resorting to its sister organizations such as Anti-Corruption Commission and the police force to provide them with reports of abuse. This therefore, shows a huge loophole in the efficiency of the SPB.

On the Committee’s concern regarding non-performance or poor performance by some contractors, Mr. Kuwaza shifted the blame to Accounting Officers who were responsible for drawing those contracts. He noted that often timelines were not specified in the contracts which therefore affected the delivery of services within the reasonable timeframe. The committee wondered why the blame should lie with a
Accounting officers and not SPB. However, Mr. Kuwaza maintained that it was not his duty to oversee the drawing up of contracts and therefore the public should desist from blaming him and his board for non-performance by the contractors.

Regarding the tender to a Chinese company which constructed the Defense College, he informed the Committee that no due diligence was done as the instruction came from the Executive.

Thematic Committee on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The Committee was schedule to meet officials from the ministry of Labour and Social Services to discuss the Older Persons Bill currently before parliament. However, the meeting had to be aborted as the officials failed to turn up for the meeting.

Notices of Motions

The Co-Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Theresa Makone gave notice of motion yesterday on the ratification of the Human Trafficking Convention, which has been outstanding for some time. She will move for the ratification of the motion on Thursday 14 June 2012.

Hon. Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (ZANU PF Mwenezi East) gave notice of motion on the current stalemate between cotton farmers and merchants.

Forthcoming events

Both Houses are sitting this afternoon. The first segment of today’s sitting for the House of Assembly is dedicated to question and answer session, where backbenchers quiz Ministers on policies and programmes under their portfolios.

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