ZIMBABWE’S bloated parliament had to adjourn last week until November 5 amid claims from MPs that the legislature is desperately trying to cut unsustainable expenditure by reducing the number of sittings.
Since the swearing-in on September 3, the National Assembly has sat for only 10 days, while the Senate has managed 13.
Both houses attended the official opening of the eighth parliament by President Robert Mugabe on September 17.
They also sat from September 24 to 26. Senate has been meeting since September 24 for only two days a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while the National Assembly has only met for three weeks — September 24 to 26, October 1 to 3 and October 15 to 17.
There are 275 National Assembly legislators and 80 senators.
Parliamentarians are gobbling at least US$200 000 per week in sitting allowances and accommodation when both Houses sit. Each parliamentarian gets US$75 per sitting while committee sittings attract the same payment.
“If both houses sit then it means 355 legislators will require sitting allowances close to US$79 000 per week with 271 legislators requiring hotel accommodation costing an average of US$108 000 per week,” said a legislator.
The legislator also said parliament does not pay accommodation for ministers and their deputies.
However, deputy clerk of parliament Kenneth Chokuda refuted claims that parliament adjourned in order to cut ballooning expenses.
“It is the business of parliament to have its sittings and adjournments,” Chokuda said. “Right now only senate is sitting so the adjournment of the National Assembly cannot be an issue of resources.”
Legislators last year endured the embarrassment of being barred from checking in at Crowne Plaza Hotel and Holiday Inn in Harare over non-payment of accommodation bills.
The MPs were left fuming after being told upon arrival from their constituencies outside Harare that they could not be checked in due to outstanding debts.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent at the time that Holiday Inn was owed more than US$90 000 while Crowne Plaza was demanding US$8 000.
Excluding ministers and their deputies, there are about 29 MPs with alternative accommodation in Harare and these are entitled to 50% of the hotel accommodation threshold, which is US$60 per day.
During the coalition government era, legislators were on several occasions thrown out of hotels due to debts exceeding US$750 000.
Parliament also owes some current and former legislators outstanding allowances incurred during the seventh parliament ranging from US$5 000 to US$20 000 each.