Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Opposition Chief Whip, John Baptist Nambeshe says that the National Unity Platform-NUP leaders resolved that their elected Members of Parliament devote substantial amount of vehicle cash to Constituency welfare.
Out of the 529 Members of the Eleventh Parliament, NUP has 57 legislators hence forming the lead Opposition party in the House. On Tuesday this week, all the MPs received 200 million Shillings each from the parliament financial year 2021/2022 budget to purchase vehicles that are aimed at facilitating their travels to and from their constituencies.
However, this one off expenditure in the five year term of parliament continues to raise eyebrows from sections of the public who think that it’s a wastage of resources.
Human rights activists under the Union of Human Rights Defenders Uganda have since demanded that the MPs return the 105.8 billion Shillings to the Consolidated Fund to facilitate the country’s fight against Covid-19.
These led by Annet Namata, the Union Executive Director said that the provision of money to MPs was a sign of insensitivity to the needs of Ugandans especially at a time when many families are going without food, can’t pay utilities and access other daily needs due to a lockdown occasioned by the spread of coronavirus.
Now in a statement issued by Nambeshe, he says that NUP joins the rest of the citizens in expressing outrage at the rate undisciplined way of spending public resources.
“Most Ugandans have been justifiably shocked that at the time when Ugandans are grappling with dire effects of a lockdown and the government is begging for resources to purchase Covid-19 vaccines, the same government has released 108 billion Shillings to Members of Parliament to purchase vehicles. This is just one of the very many aspects of wastage of public resources which NUP has been critical of,” reads part of Nambeshe’s statement.
He adds that while MPs need vehicles to travel to and from their constituencies, the party believes that MPs are some of the most well paid public servants who can afford to buy vehicles for themselves.
The Parliamentary Commission pays each legislator a monthly salary of 6 million Shillings after taxes. A Member of Parliament earns between 25 and 30 million Shillings monthly when other allowances are included.
Some of the financial benefits of MPs are a monthly subsistence allowance of 4.5 million, a town running allowance of 1 million, medical allowance of 500, 000 Shillings, Sitting allowance of between 50,000 to 150,000 Shillings for committee meetings ( 50,000 for committee members and 150,000 for Committee Chairpersons and 100,000 for Vice Chairpersons).
The MPs are also entitled to a Plenary Sitting allowance of 150,000 Shillings as well as mileage or fuel allowances. This is in addition to a one-off vehicle allowance received at the beginning of their term.
“In our manifesto we made proposals on how to tackle nugatory public expenditure so as to prioritize the welfare of our people,” says Nambeshe. “While at our leaders’ retreat in April NUP MPs resolved to devote a substantial amount of the 200 million Shillings grant towards the welfare of Constitutes. Ordinary, public services should be carried out by government, but that happens when you have a government which cares for the people.”
He further explains that it is in this regard that most of their MPs have already been undertaking projects in their constituencies aimed at elevating the conditions of the people. Nambeshe says that the MPs will in the coming days continue carrying out projects mostly targeting healthcare, education, agriculture and youth empowerment programs.
Regarding the option of returning the money to the Consolidated Fund, Nambeshe says that this was discussed but not taken up by party leaders since government would not put it to any meaningful or proper use.
“It was also realised that every constituency has specific needs and challenges and therefore it would not be plausible to carry out one project across all constituencies; the party will continue to publicise our Members’ projects,” Nambeshe says.
This statement comes after media reports indicating that NUP MPs were also surrendering sh10 million each to the party to facilitate it’s activities. This would see a total of sh570 million contribution to NUP.
Nambeshe then said that sh10 million is even little as the MPs are giving more to the party in a fundraising drive to help buy party premises. He said that the party ought to become independent and purchase it’s own premises and vacate the one in Kamwokya that individually belongs to the party President Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
Muhammad Ssegirinya, the Kawempe North MP says that he is committed to use the vehicle cash to support his constituency through his ‘SsegiBox’ project where he plans to avail sh100,000 to families.
Ssegirinya also says that he is to support voters through different community groups meant to create development.
However, National Resistance Movement- NRM’s Pakwach Woman MP says that the public should not castigate the 200million Shillings vehicle cash since it was budgeted for.