National Assembly Speaker, Margaret Nasha, and Tati East MP Samson Guma have fired salvoes at each other after the latter accused him of reporting Pono Moatlhodi to the police. In an interesting revelation, Botswana Democratic Party former chairman Samson Guma has been accused of playing dirty games to score cheap political points. Nasha accused Guma of reporting Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Pono Moatlhodi who recently defected from the ruling BDP to join the Botswana National Front, for claiming P1 600 as sitting allowance for his participation in the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. The Speaker was responding to questions from The Patriot on Sunday on the issue which is said to be under investigation by the police.
At the centre of the issue is the membership of a speaker and a deputy speaker in the PAC. While other MPs said they are ex-officio members of the committee, others insist that they are not.
Guma, who is a member of the PAC is said to have reported the matter after he realised that Moatlhodi has claimed a sitting allowance for sitting in the public hearings of the committee that were wrapped up last month.
“Maloba go ne go spreadiwa kgang eo (recently that issue was circulating). It’s Mr Guma who reported it. He said the Deputy Speaker has claimed when he was not supposed to. I had sent Moatlhodi to go and sit in the committee during its sessions on the days in question. I want to know what kind of speaker will form committees and not have an interest in how they are operating and handling issues. Guma is just engaging in dirty politics. We (Nasha and Moatlhodi) have agreed that we will target some ministries and departments that usually have a lot of controversy due to the nature of their work. This is to ensure that we can guide and advise committees should the need arise during deliberations,” she said.
The Standing Orders are not clear over this issue. A perusal of the Standing Order 5.1 (b), on the role of the speaker, reads: “To preside, with complete impartiality, over parliamentary debates, and he or she shall protect the freedom of speech and debate in the National Assembly and its Committees”.
Meanwhile Guma was combative and did not take kindly to Nasha’s accusations, saying that he insists that it is wrong for the deputy speaker to have made the claim. He said he did not report the matter to the police but told the Auditor General. He said he is well versed in what is wrong and correct where the PAC is concerned especially that she has been its member since 2005 and was once its chairman.
“It is not lawful to claim for work you have not done. You cannot claim when you are not taking part in the deliberations. There are 10 members of the PAC and there is no ex-officio member in it. I have never seen a situation where politicians authorise payment. It’s accounting officers only. Did he examine the books? The laws are clear. They say you sit and claim an allowance. You don’t need a lawyer from Harvard to understand that. So what was he claiming for? Does it mean that even the president can sit and claim? You should also ask her if she has claimed after sitting in the committee in a public hearing because if she has then we have a problem. If that’s assumed to be correct then I will not participate anymore,” said Guma.
Guma said he is shocked that Nasha has chosen to discuss the issue in the media when she could have easily addressed him, especially that they had a scheduled meeting.
“She could not see me despite my having sought to have a meeting with her. Tell her that I said I am one of those who voted her in that position. If she has an issue with me, she should call me to her office,” he said. By press time, efforts to reach Moatlhodi and the police were futile.