Speaking to journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Bunge’s head of information Owen Mwandumbwe said although the Speaker’s office is aware of the graft allegations raised, “we leave any investigations, and prosecutions if need be, to relevant authorities.”
Mwandumbwe moved to dismiss speculation that Speaker Job Ndugai had decided to reshuffle all the parliamentary committees as a direct response to the allegations, saying it was aimed solely at improving work efficiency.
“The reshuffle of Bunge committee members is not related in any way to the allegations reported in the media …the MPs who resigned their committee memberships have submitted their letters to the Speaker and they should wait for his response,” he asserted.
At least two members of the parliamentary social services committee, Zitto Kabwe and Hussein Bashe, formally resigned in the wake of a local newspaper report that committee members had been offered “a bag of cash” by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) as a bribe.
The duo both called on Speaker Ndugai to open a formal probe into the allegations, which they said had badly tarnished not only the names of all the committee members, but the image of parliament as a whole.
The committee’s deputy chairperson, Raphael Chegeni, later said the entire committee had also resigned to pave the way for the investigation. Chegeni was then moved to another committee in Ndugai’s subsequent reshuffle.
According to Mwandumbwe, if the allegations of corruption are genuine the matter will be handed over to proper investigative authorities who will find out the truth and take appropriate action.
“It is not the work of the parliament to investigate criminal allegations,” the Bunge spokesman said.
Commenting on the reported resignations from Bunge committee membership, he said this was contrary to parliamentary standing orders because the participation of legislators in standing committee activities is part of their parliamentary duty.
The Speaker has the mandate to appoint or reshuffle members of the respective parliamentary committees, and it was not a matter left the members’ choice, Mwandumbwe added.
What the Speaker’s office has done is take into consideration the requests submitted by some legislators on the possibilities of reorganizing the parliamentary committees under article 116(3) of the parliamentary standing orders, the spokesman strived to explain.