Dar es Salaam. Parliament business was paralysed yesterday as the unfolding bribery scandal touching on some members of parliament deepened.
Lack of quorum hit some committees as absentee members piled pressure on Speaker Job Ndugai to open an internal investigation over the scandal.
Mr Ndugai’s move to reshuffle MPs across a number of committees also appeared to crack, with one dropped vice-chairman resigning from his new position.
It was a day of drama at the Bunge offices in Dar es Salaam where government bureaucrats failed to present their budgets review documents as MPs could not raise the requisite numbers.
The latest development came as Mr Ndugai and the head of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) Valentino Mlowola confirmed a sweeping investigation had been ordered into reports MPs solicited and received hefty bribes from several state agencies in return for favourable mention in their committee reports.
The confirmation came even as some of the MPs directly named in the saga came out to defend themselves against the allegations that were reportedly revealed in a secret report to the Speaker.
Yesterday Mr Mlowola told The Citizen in a telephone interview that the anti-graft body will interrogate all MPs who are implicated but refused to reveal their identity or number.
“Our work is to investigate all allegations related to corruption and therefore in this case we are investigating each of the MPs who have been mentioned,” said the PCCB director general.
Mr Mlowola noted that the probe has been extended to the state agencies whose officials have been accused of bribing the MPs billions of shillings. One of the dropped committee chairperson allegedly pocketed Sh8 million from the Energy and Water Regulatory Authority (Ewura).
The bribery reports emerged early in the week and forced Mr Ndugai to drop three committee chairpersons and two vice chairpersons and also reshuffled over 20 others.
The changes have however fueled the heat, with some MPs resigning their membership while calls to crack the whip against the implicated MPs also came from outside parliament.
Those who have resigned include Kigoma urban MP Zitto Kabwe (Act Wazalendo) and Hussein Bashe of Nzega (CCM) who have demanded a through parliamentary investigation.
Yesterday, the MP for Mbiga urban Mr Sixtus Mapunda (CCM) also wrote to the speaker protesting his removal as vice chairman of the Committee on Lands Natural Resources and Tourism. He declined his new membership in the Aids Committee.
In his letter, the MP said he was saddened that Mr Ndugai moved some MPs who have been accused of receiving bribes to other committees without investigating them. He said the tendency had ripped off various agencies for many years.
“As a leader I believe that the transfer of the MPs who have been accused of violating the law without investigating them is a continuation of the old system that are pulling down institutions. I will not want to see the parliament condoning this behaviour,” reads his letter to the Speaker.
Mr Mapunda said he has never been accused of receiving bribes, noting that should the investigation find him guilty, then he should be punished but should he be innocent then the speaker’s office should take responsibility to clean him.
In an interview with a local radio station yesterday, Mr Ndugai said he was surprised to receive resignation letters from MPs, saying he was yet to hear from them on what made them reach the decision. It was believed that up to two dozens of MPs have or will tender their resignations.
The Speaker said parliament does not carry out investigations against MPs as the mandate was left to other state organs.
“As parliament we do not carry out investigation against any MP but other state organs do and they are also not obliged to report to the Speaker,” Mr Ndugai said.
During Bunge business in the city yesterday, members of the Social Service and Community Development Committee failed to hold their sitting after most of its members failed to turn up.
The committee was expected to meet officials from the ministries of education, public service and the Prime Minister’s office. By 10am, less than eight members had showed up at the Millennium Towers where various committees are holding their meetings.
MPs Lucy Mlowe, Elly Macha, Susan Lyimo and Mr Kasuku Bilago urged speedy investigations to allow resumption of normal business.
They asked the speaker to issue a statement that would clear the dark cloud in the committee whose leadership was removed. It has also the highest number of members shuffled.
“But not all members have resigned and therefore we hope to resume meetings after directions from the Speaker,” said Ms Lyimo.
Mr Bilago called on relevant authorities to take actions against anyone found guilty.
Meanwhile ACT-Wazalendo party also called for thorough investigations into the scandal, saying all MPs found guilty should be taken to task.
The party’s chairman for parliamentary and local government committee Mr Yeremia Maganja told journalists at a press conference that the changes made by Mr Ndugai will not be sufficient to restore the image of the parliament.
“The parliament is a major institution representing the public interest and reports on corruption within has shown a big failure in the entity’s commitment to combat the vice,” he said.
The party, however commended its leader Mr Zitto Kabwe and Nzega MP Hussein Bashe for resigning to push for investigations.
Reported by Henry Mwangonde, Saumu Mwalimu and Alfred Zacharia.