Speaker's Ruling - Alleged Contempt by Kuwaza - 2016-02-16

In the National Assembly
Tuesday 16th February 2016

RULING BY MR SPEAKER MUZENDA ON ALLEGED CONTEMPT OF PARLIAMENT
BY MR CHARLES KUWAZA

The Speaker made a ruling on a matter of privilege raised by Hon. Matuke, the then Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy against Mr Charles Kuwaza, the former Chairperson of the State Procurement Board in relation to his conduct when he appeared before the Committee as follows:

This Ruling seeks to address the point of order raised by Hon. Matuke on Wednesday the 29th of July 2015, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy. Hon. Matuke stated that the Committee on Mines and Energy, in performing its oversight function, had been conducting an enquiry into the Tendering System of Electricity Sector Projects. Accordingly, the Committee invited Mr. Charles Kuwaza, the Executive Chairperson of the State Procurement Board to a meeting, in order to gather pertinent facts on the operations of the State Procurement Board in respect of electricity sector projects.

For the record Hon. Matuke stated that Mr. Kuwaza appeared before the Committee on Monday, the 30th of June, 2015 but failed to answer questions raised, which led to the meeting being aborted so as to give him sufficient time to prepare his responses to the questions raised by the Committee. On Monday the 6th of July, 2015, Mr. Kuwaza once again appeared before the Committee. The Committee had documented additional questions which Mr. Kuwaza had been given in the first aborted meeting. After the formalities of taking oath as required under Standing Order No. 25 (b) and introductions, Members of the Committee, led by the Committee Chairperson, asked if Mr. Kuwaza had brought written responses to the two sets of questions that had been brought to his attention. It became apparent that Mr. Kuwaza had not prepared a written response to the questions as directed by the Committee. When asked again to respond even orally to questions that were raised in the letter sent to him, Mr. Kuwaza indicated that he had sent an email to the Clerk of Parliament dealing with only one issue of the mandate of State Procurement Board. Mr. Kuwaza could not even provide proof of the e-mail. Hon. Matuke stated that it was impressed upon Mr. Kuwaza that it was important for him to provide answers that had been lawfully posed, which was to no avail as Mr. Kuwaza became visibly abusive and at one point suggested that there was no order in the Committee.

It is alleged that the conduct by Mr. Kuwaza has potential to impair and undermine the role and authority of Parliament in general and the work of the Committee in particular. The Committee is of the view that—

(a) Mr. Kuwaza’s failure to answer questions posed to him amounts to contempt of Parliament;

(b) Mr. Kuwaza misrepresented facts in the email sent to the Administration of Parliament;

(c) Mr. Kuwaza shouted, ‘Can we have order in this Committee,’ suggesting that the Committee was disorganised, after he had been asked to recuse himself from the meeting.

(d) Mr. Kuwaza’s arrogance, misrepresentation and refusal to respond directly impaired the work of the Committee in the discharge of its constitutional mandate.

Ruling

In view of the foregoing, it was imperative that the Chair looks into the matter and in particular the legislative provisions concerning the issue at hand. In terms of Section 12 of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act [Chapter 2:08]—

a witness in or before Parliament or a Committee shall be … bound―

(a) to answer any questions which may be put to him;

(b) to produce any document or thing which he may actually have in his possession.”.

It is patently clear that Parliament is given power under the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act [Chapter 2:08] to act decisively where there is a prima facie contempt of Parliament or its Committee. The Schedule to the Act lists a number of offences including refusing to be examined before or answer any lawful and relevant questions put by Parliament or a Committee, amongst others. Standing Order No. 25 allows Committees to conduct investigations and in doing so, may perform quasi-judicial functions such as summoning a person to appear before it to give evidence on oath or affirmation, as was the case in this instance. It is apparent that Mr. Kuwaza, refused to be examined before or to answer any lawful and relevant questions put by Parliament or the Committee and prevaricated as a witness before Committee and thus was in direct violation of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act [Chapter 2:08].

The Chair, therefore, rules that the alleged conduct by Mr Kawaza constitutes a prima facie case of contempt of Parliament, and further rules that an ad hoc Committee be established to enquire into the matter.

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