Former Vice President, Prof Gilbert Bukenya is receiving double payment in form of retirement benefits drawn from the consolidated fund as Member of Parliament for Busiro County and as former Vice President contrary to the law. This emerged on Tuesday as MPs queried over 176million Mr Bukenya has so far received in allowances.
Prof Bukenya is entitled to retirement benefits as former Vice President and receives a monthly retirement pension of Shs 4.7million. Overall, he has received a total of Shs 176million from Public Service for the last three years since he was sacked as Vice President. He also receives other benefits like medical allowance, fuel, utilities and two domestic staff on top of other Parliamentary allowances he earns as an MP like mileage, subsistence and medical allowances contrary to Section 20 (2) of the Emoluments and Benefits of the President, Vice President and Prime Minister’s Amendment Act on the revocation of their appointment.
Section 20 (2) categorically states that where the Vice President or Prime Minister, becomes a Member of Parliament, he or she shall benefit from the greater of the benefits, under this Act and those enjoyable by a Member of Parliament but not both.
Prof Bukenya was in a letter dated January 18th, 2012, written to him by Mr Kunsa Kiwanuka on behalf of the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Public Service asked which of the two benefits he preferred.
In his response in a letter dated February 06, 2012, he said he had opted for the former Vice Presidents benefits.
The law makers on the Parliamentary Public Service committee however demanded to know why even after such a reminder, Prof Bukenya continues to get double payment.
"So why are you picking benefits as an MP and as a former vice President yet the law is very clear about your benefits .Besides, are you considering refunding the Shs 176million to government?” Asked Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze.
Other MPs; Raphael Magyezi (Igara West) and Florence Kintu (Kalungi) jumped to the fray accusing Bukenya of being insensitive to the tax payer and drawing double payment.
There was a big debate on what constitutes benefits for MPs with Prof Bukenya insisting that what he gets from Parliament are constitutional entitlements and not benefits.
“I know I receive fuel to go to my constituency but that is my right. Is monthly pension a salary and if it is not, why did the ministry continue paying it to me yet I had opted for a salary as former Vice President? This situation will require a legal interpretation,” said Prof Bukenya.
Other MPs however blamed it on the law saying it must be amended to ensure that other leaders like the former speaker, Mr Edward Ssekandi do not get benefits as past leaders before they can retire as Members of Parliament.
The MPs heard that the Parliamentary Commission has given Mr Ssekandi a car yet he received the Shs 103million cash to purchase a vehicle as an MP for Bukoto Central.
Mr Roland Mugume (Rukungiri Municipality) however advised that government institutes a committee to investigate salaries of Ministers serving as MPs and other leaders.
“Here you are a minister and at the same time an MP getting allowances .How do you handle this and why serve in two arms of government,” he asked.
Explaining why he preferred the benefits for a former Vice President, he said they were much higher than those of Parliament since he was entitled to a chauffeur driven posh car, a Shs 300million house and Shs 240million for furniture.
“That time a Vice President was entitled to medical management but when you tell me an allowance of Shs 300,000 I receive as an MP, it is nothing. Cancer screening alone costs me Shs 300,000 a month,” he said.
Defending Mr Bukenya, former commissioner, Dr Chris Baryomunsi said while the matter of paying benefits was brought to the attention of the former Vice President, Ministry of Public Service never wrote to the commission officially stopping the payment of benefits.
“To the best of my knowledge, the matter was never brought to the attention of the commission and the allowances Prof Bukenya receives from Parliament are to enable him do his work in Parliament as an MP,”
Dr Baryomunsi said.
The committee in a closed meeting resolved to sit with the legal Parliamentary committee to help them define former leaders’ rights and entitlements.
“We will also seek clarification from the Parliamentary Commission and the Ministry of Public Service on the status of one being a minister and at the same time MP drawing double payments,” said Mr Mugume.