People & Power
Retirement benefits still haunting House
Posted Sunday, August 3 2014 at 01:00
It is the post-Budget fever in Parliament with various sectoral committees meeting to discuss the 2014/2015 ministerial policy statements for the various ministries and government institutions.
And like is the norm, House business was suspended indefinitely on Thursday to allow enough time for the scrutinisation of the various sector votes before the final budget figures are approved by the House.
Ministerial policy statements presented by the ministers outline the performance and plans of spending agencies which are used by Parliament to assess performance as per the Budget Act, 2001.
Before the Public Service and Local government committee is a stormy debate on whether former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya Balibaseka has so far received Shs500m in retirement benefits.
The State minister for Public Service, Ms Sezi Mbaguta, said the ministry had so far paid Shs500 million to the former VP. The minister during the meeting, however, failed to back up her claims with payment vouchers to justify the payment.
This was after Rukungiri Municipality MP Roland Mugume and for Mukono Municipality’s Betty Nambooze highlighted the plight of former leaders to the attention of the Committee, saying Mr Bukenya’s predicament does not augur well for the country for a man who once occupied the country’s second top job.
Bukenya in protest told journalists that he had not received the money and threatened to produce before the committee statements from three of his banks detailing how much money he receives from government on a monthly basis.
Talking to press, he clarified that he started receiving Shs4 million a year ago and this amounts to about Shs 48million as he accused the ministry and government of lying.
Ideally as former vice president, Mr Bukenya is entitled to pension, a fully furnished house, fuel allowance, medical allowance, security guards and cash to cater for utility bills. Bukenya’s old car was accordingly taken for repair and it has never been returned. His security was also withdrawn once he declared he was standing for presidential elections in 2016.
Bukenya’s situation is just one example of how former leaders of this country have not been treated with due dignity they deserve.
Just in August last year, Parliament tasked the government to explain why ex-Vice President Speciosa Wandira had not received her retirement benefits; almost a decade after she left office. This too was an outright violation of the Constitution.
The 2010 Emoluments and Benefits of the President, Vice President and Prime Minister Act entitles former VPs to a monthly pay equivalent to 60 per cent of a sitting vice president’s gross salary, Shs300 million for house purchase fund, a car and driver.
They are also entitled to medical care, two government paid security guards, a personal assistant and a Shs700,000 monthly allowance to cater for household utilities like water and electricity. Government however said they had availed her all the benefits apart from a house and a car.
And at the height of a debate on why former Speaker and now Vice President Edward Ssekandi had not yet returned a car he was using which was previously assigned to the Speaker’s office, Mr Ssekandi insisted he would not return it because it was given to him as a parting gift by the House administration.
Under the Pensions Act he is entitled to a chauffeur-driven car and other entitlements that have never been availed.
By last year, former leaders owed government Shs11 billion but Minister Mbaguta said there was no money to pay them.
Before he died, the former president Godfrey Binaisa had raised an alarm, saying the government was treating him like an ex-village headman.