Felex Share Herald Reporter
Legislators who looted Constituency Development Funds face a jail term of up to five years if a Bill being concluded by the Government to punish the offenders sails through.
Those who assist the legislators to misappropriate the funds will also be held accountable and face a similar jail term.
The new law will also establish a board that will govern the CDF.
Government has been failing to nail Members of Parliament who abused the funds as there was no law spelling out penalties.
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs permanent secretary Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said in an interview last week that they were making final consultations with other stakeholders on the new law.
The stakeholders being consulted include the Ministry of Finance, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Mrs Mabhiza said the new law would guide the administration of the CDF.
“We have stepped up our efforts and the Bill will soon go to Parliament before it becomes an Act,” she said.
“We are having final discussions with stakeholders, but the Bill now has a penalty section that is going to nail looters of the funds.
“The CDF administration will be done through a board that has a chief executive. The board will help in the control and application of the CDF.”
Mrs Mabhiza said presently the CDF was being dealt with under the Public Finance Management Act, making it impossible for Government to jail its abusers.
“As a result, we had to revert to the Criminal Law and Codification Reform Act, which we have pointed out to be a weaker legal statute. Moreover, MPs do not fall under the Public Finance Management Act,” she said.
“The new law, if enacted, will help us in dealing with those who think that they are off the hook. No one will go scot-free because these funds are meant to develop constituencies not self-aggrandisement.”
Mrs Mabhiza said there would be no CDF distribution to the legislators this year.
“As you saw, Finance Minister (Tendai Biti) in his Mid-Term Policy Statement did not provide for CDF distribution. It means constituencies will not benefit anything this financial year,” she said.
“It is our hope that as more resources come, the money will be availed as it benefits ordinary Zimbabweans in their respective constituencies.”
Mrs Mabhiza said 95 constituencies had been fully audited and a lot of irregularities had been unearthed.
Zimbabwe has 210 constituencies.
“The auditors are in Mashonaland East at the moment where we hope to cover 22 constituencies by next week,” said Mrs Mabhiza.
“Our projection is to finish by year end that is if Treasury continues giving us our budgetary allocations.
“We continue to receive a lot of complaints and tip-offs from people from various constituencies and this is a cause for concern.”
Four MPs, Albert Mhlanga (MDC-T Pumula), Marvellous Khumalo (MDC-T St Mary’s), Cleopas Machacha (MDC-T Kariba) and Franco Ndambakuwa (Zanu-PF Magunje), were early this year arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission and appeared in court.
Charges against Ndambakuwa and Mhlanga were withdrawn before plea and the State will proceed by way of summons when the dockets are ready.
Cases against Machacha and Khumalo are still pending. Minister Biti allocated US$8 million for the CDF in the 2010 budget under which the MPs received US$50 000 each for the development of their constituencies.