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The cost of the Ugandan parliament; Africa’s third largest assembly

Ugandan parliament

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | The 11th parliament to be inaugurated in May 2021 is set to be the largest in Uganda’s history and so will be the cost to the taxpayer, unless drastic measures are taken to cut the expenses. 

The number of MPs will have grown from 457 members in the tenth parliament to 527, making Uganda’s august house the sixth largest legislature in Africa. The other countries with bigger legislatures than Uganda are Morocco, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Algeria, and Egypt. 

With the exception of Egypt with a parliament of 596 members, the other countries in the bracket have a bicameral system; a lower house of representatives and the upper house, or senate. But if their senates are excluded, they are smaller than Uganda’s. Uganda’s legislature is also bigger than those of economic powerhouses; Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. 

Ugandans are also the most highly represented society, with each MP representing an average 86,800 people, compared 176,000 in Ethiopia, 154,000 in the DR Congo, 120,000 in South Africa, 168,000 in Egypt, as well as Nigeria, where each MP represents an average 492,000. 

A Ugandan MP earns an average 25 million Shillings per month including a basic salary of 6 million Shillings and amenities in allowances, depending on the distance between their constituency and the parliamentary buildings in Kampala. Ugandan MPs have the privilege of revising their pay either up or downwards. Article 85 of the Constitution states that MPs are entitled to determine their emoluments, a privilege no other public officials enjoy. 

If this remains unchanged, Ugandans will spend not less than 13 billion Shillings a month or 158 billion Shillings annually, almost 36 billion Shillings more than last year’s salary and fixed allowance expenditure. In 2018, Ugandan MPs were also the highest-paid legislators in Africa, according to Mark Babatunde, an author at Face2FaceAfrica. 

Every member of parliament is entitled to a new car. In the current parliament, Members were given 150 million Shillings for the purchase of vehicles at the beginning of their 5-year term.  This Year, the Ministry of Finance says that it requires 165 billion Shillings for the same. 

On top of the mileage allowances that range between 10 and 30 million Shillings per MP per month, the legislators are also entitled to night travel of 150,000 Shillings per night when traveling within the country, and 1.9 million Shillings per night for foreign travel. The legislators are also entitled to an iPad to help them conduct research and follow proceedings during debate.

The MPs pay package also largely goes untaxed and for tax purposes, they usually present only the 6 million Shillings, which is the basic salary after tax, while between 15 and 25 million is not taxed. 

On a number of occasions, the legislators have defended the pay they allocate themselves as being reasonable, and they compare it with what happens in the rest of the region.

They also cite the high costs of maintaining a constituency, that included attending to personal problems of their constituents like burials and school fees for children, even though that is not in their mandate. 

Last financial year, some MPs called for the introduction of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) which, before it was abolished in 2011, was managed by the MP of the respective constituency. Each MP would be given some 10 million Shillings. The fund was scrapped after it faced accountability issues.

But last year, Usuk County MP Peter Ogwang said there is a plan to table a Bill in the 11th parliament. MPs including Jacob Oboth and Paul Mwiru support the re-introduction of the CDF, saying that if it has worked in countries like Kenya, it can also work in Uganda. They say it is needed to cater for the increasing pressures that the MPs are facing in their constituencies. 

The Executive Director of the Budget Advocacy Group, Julius Mukunda expresses worry at the rate at which the public administration expenditure is increasing. He says that unfortunately as the parliament expands, the government is borrowing money to cater for the increasing budget.

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