Parliament gives K1.5 billion to ‘First Lady’s office’ which does not exist

Parliament last week  approved the K1.5 billion budgetary allocation for the office of the First Lady after a second vote following a tie in the first round.

Thursday night’s voting had the members of Parlialment (MPs) voting 65 in favour of the allocation and 43 against.
When the results were announced, backbench opposition MPs walked out of the House in protest against the approval of the allocation.
Winding up the debate on the budget, Vice-President Guy Scott said there are no illegalities in allocating money to the First Lady’s office.
Dr Scott said Government wants to enhance transparency in financial allocations and expenditure and that there is no personal benefit intended.
And in a policy statement, Dr Scott said there is need to enhance transparency and accountability in the administration of support services to the office of the First Lady.
He said a specific budget line has been created to facilitate the undertaking of national assignments on behalf of the President.
Debating the budget, Kalomo MP Request Muntanga (UPND) said allocating funds to the First Lady’s office would drag the office-holder into politics.
He said the First Lady’s office cannot be allocated funds because there is no structure to support that and wondered how the money will be accounted for.
“How is she going to be supervised?  This is the first time this is happening in the history of Zambia,” he said.
Senga Hill MP Kapembwa Simbao (MMD) said parliamentarians have nothing against the First Lady but what they opposed is the allocation of money without an establishment for the office.
Mafinga MP Catherine Namugala (MMD) said the office of the First Lady is not a constitutional office.
Ms Namugala said allocating funds to an office that does not exist constitutionally, is tantamount to creating “a slush fund.’’
“Why do you want to recognise it and provide for it?  Are you trying to create slush funds? You are making the First Lady unpopular because we will know when she travels that she is using our money,” she said.
Ms Namugala said recognition of the First Lady is through the President who holds the constitutional office.
“She is not recognised in her individual capacity.  Government under the MMD spent on the First Lady through the President. Because it is through the President that the First Lady is recognized,” she said.
Ms Namugala said benefits the First Lady accrues are because she is married to the President.
In supporting the budget, Minister of Youth and Sport Chishimba Kambwili said the office of the First Lady needs its own funding because she has personnel and other facilities attached to her and that these should be properly budgeted for.
“All that we are trying to do is to be transparent,” he said.

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