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MPs continue getting mileage allowances despite not attending plenary

Parliament of Uganda

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | Even as newly re-elected President Museveni vows not to let members of parliament increase their salaries/emoluments so as to reduce waste and increase funding for essential services, the Treasury has to suffer unnecessary hemorrhage of at least 30 billion shillings as MPs continue getting millage allowances without going for plenary sessions until May when their term expires.

At the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, the president described the MPs’ appetite for cash as “morally reprehensible” after they each got 20 million shillings to do covid-19 relief work yet they are not authorized by law to spend public funds. Hi directed that they take the money to the district accounting officers, the CAO’s, but the MPs refused and instead passed a motion of displeasure against President Yoweri Museveni. In his first address to the nation after the Electoral Commission announced him winner on Saturday, an angry Museveni referred the motion parliament passed against him for trying to tame their appetite. The parliament also condemned its own Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya for returning the money as per the president’s guidance.

Campaigns officially started early November 2020 and since the the house only convenes occasionally, like they briefly did in December to consider the budget framework. But the 456 MPs will continue to get their full fuel allowances for the months when plenary is not on. Parliament will only sit as and when the Speaker calls for a sitting during the five months transitional period between the 10th and 11th Parliament which will start in May.

An MP gets a basic salary of 11 million shillings which comes to 6 million shillings after tax, MPs however get an average of 10-30 million shillings in monthly mileage allowances, and this figure is even higher for bigger constituents like National Youth MPs, workers MPs and Persons with Disability representatives among other special interest representatives.

However the MPs are currently getting the mileage allowances, yet they are not commuting to Parliament. The only allowance excluded at this time is the sitting allowance for meetings in Parliament.

The allocation of the allowance is made on the basis that an MP travels to and from their constituency at least two times a week.

With the 456 MPs getting between 10 and 30 million shillings per month each, the taxpayer pays some 5 billion shillings a month on this item at the lowest. In five months, the loss of money thus paid for “no” work will amount to at least 25 billion shillings.

The final icing on the fuel cake comes in May when they MPs are expected to get paid a “refund” for the rises in pump fuel prices over the five years. In 2016, each member of the 9th Parliament pocketed over a hundred million shillings in the “refund”. Even those who use government vehicles and fuel for their travels by virtue of their offices fraudulently got the “refund” and the millage cash.

All MPs URN spoke to confirmed they were getting all their allowances including fuel, and excluding only sitting allowances.

According to Hellen Kawesa, the Spokesperson Parliament, although MPs are not sitting in plenary, they are actually still listening to their people and also doing oversight role by virtue of being an MP, which is why they are still facilitated.

She says that people should not look at debate in the house as the only role of an MP and as Parliament, they have a contract with MPs to pay them up to a specific period of time.

Asked about most of the MPs who have been engaged in campaigns seeking re-election, Kawesa says that as MPs campaign they get views, information and challenges that can inform proposals like bills and laws in the next Parliament.

Cissy Kagaba, the Executive Director Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) says that there is no value for money in paying MPs allowances when they are in recess.

Kagaba says that this should change, paying MPs at a time like this since they are busy doing personal work. She says that it is even made worse at this time when the health sector is struggling to fight COVID-19 and also that some sectors are struggling.

Kagaba says that the over 20 billion shillings could be used for other purposes that transform Ugandans lives.

Financial Accountability activist Julius Kapwepwe says Uganda is facing revenue challenges, and they expected a commensurate reduction in the level of expenditure.

Kapwepwe says that it is sad that MPs who are not deliberating are still receiving huge allowances that could have been used to save some sectors of the economy. He says this brings about debate on public finance management, and how financial excesses in recurrent spending are treated.

Dr Gerald Karyeija, academic of Uganda Management Institute says that the expenditure is disproportionate to the kind of work that MPs do. Karyeija also says that there needs to be a review on Parliament determining its own emoluments.

“The bigger question is do we need all of them?” He asks. “As a country we need to reflect on the cost of the legislature to the Ugandan population. It is a disproportionate expenditure in my view. It calls us to revisit the salary review commission, it is risky for us to continue having Parliament legislate its own remuneration.”

He says the transitional period between when elections begin and when the next parliament comes in should be revisited as their legislative function is reduced because of electioneering, and this period needs to be revisited.





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