By Prince Kurupati
The African Union has decided to approve the Pan African Parliament (PAP) budget even though African foreign affairs ministers had asked the mother body to “temporarily suspend” the Pan-African Parliament’s budget citing irregularities in the PAP recruitment process.
During the biannual summit of the African Union which commenced on Monday, July 2nd in Nouakchott, Mauritania, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported that African foreign affairs ministers who had attended the event had asked the African Union to suspend the Pan African Parliament budget for the upcoming year.
In calling for the suspension of the PAP budget, foreign ministers argued that since PAP is under investigations of maladministration and corruption, it was better if funding was cut for the entire duration of the audit.
Earlier on, 15 finance ministers from member states asked the AU Commission “to initiate an urgent audit of PAP.” They in agreement with the foreign ministers also had asked the African Union to put on hold the release of the 2019 budget of PAP until completion of the audit exercise.
Several top-ranking officials in the African Union and also media outlets were caught in surprise by the announcement that the African Union had approved PAN budget despite the ongoing audit.
While the African Union’s decision certainly caught many people by surprise, one may argue that the African body had been left with no choice as PAP is the only African Union organ which ensures “the full participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent.” This, therefore, means if it had heeded the call to suspend the PAP budget, theoretically, African peoples would have been left in the open without a body representing them.
However, there are also some who argue that since the African Union declared 2018 the year of fighting corruption, it should have taken the hard step to temporarily suspend the PAP budget until it had been ‘exonerated’ (by the audit) of all the corruption and maladministration allegations levelled against it.
PAP in May this year adopted the proposed US$ 26 million budget to run the legislature’s activities and programmes in 2019. Hon. Michael John Temple (Swaziland) the Chairperson of the Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs presented the budget which showed a 35 per cent increase compared to the previous year’s budget of US$19 million. In presenting the budget, Hon. Michael John Temple said that the increase is as a result of the addition of extra programme activities, the inclusion of rental of the PAP official residence, alary inflationary adjustments, increase in educational allowance, travels, communication and ICT maintenance among others. PAP forwarded the budget for approval in May and had been waiting ever since for its approval.
The increase in PAP’s budget is one of the many issues which prompted African foreign ministers (and also finance ministers) to request the African Union to temporarily suspend the PAP budget. Other irregularities which prompted the foreign ministers to request for the suspension of the PAP budget include reports that the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) President Roger Nkodo Dang of Cameroon rejected a ministerial home under renovation offered to him by the South African government, which is hosting PAP in Midrand from its budgets, staying at the upmarket Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton instead for much of 2015 and 2016, and preferred an official Mercedes Benz ML sport utility vehicle rather than a ‘lowly’ E-Class from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.
Dang is also reported to have stayed at an exclusive Pretoria estate at a cost of R80, 000 ($6,000 US) a month after turning down government housing, with two chefs and two cleaners, paid for by the AU. Dang is also accused of incompetence and not undertaking any activities on the fighting corruption theme of the year or any campaigns advocating against the scourge.
According to South Africa’s International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, the audit into PAP should be finished later in 2018. Sisulu said that if the audit unearths any problems, the African Union will sit down ‘there’ and ‘sort out’ the problems.