Put legislators' iPads cash into the social protection programme
Posted Wednesday, March 6 2013 at 02:00
Knowing the crop of our current legislators, it might not be long before we hear some of them asking for technical assistants to help them access documents or eye care services within Parliament.
There are times when one is tempted to believe that our Members of Parliament feel for their constituents and the country, especially when they question mismanagement of public resources. This has been evident since 2007 in the numerous meetings of Public Accounts Committee.
They have been heard saying “these resources would help to build roads, health and education facilities in various parts of Uganda”. Last year, many of them said they want the Executive to commit resources towards the senior citizens grant of the Government’s Social Protection programme.
During the 2012/13 budget debate, our MPs put the government to task to find funds for health, education, agriculture and the senior citizens grant, among other demands. For instance, they asked the government to provide Shs500 million as counter funding to the Senior Citizens Grant.
They also spoke fondly about the conditions of health workers and teachers and the need to increase their salaries. The same debate is probably going to continue this year.
It is, therefore, ironic that the same MPs are now getting iPads, arguably to reduce on the cost of printing and stationery and also to enable them to embrace technological advancements. The total bill for this expenditure
is about Shs1 billion.
We are all aware that most of our parliamentarians are remunerated to the tune of about Shs15 to 20 million. Last year, each of them received about Shs103 million to buy cars. A whopping Shs5 billion for the 375 MPs!
There is every reason for the MPs to have the tools for the job. But the public ought to get the value for this expenditure. They can have comfortable cars, iPads, technical assistants, travel exchanges, etc., but not at the expense of their poor constituents.
There are several alternative ways that our MPs could have used to get iPads without straining our national coffers. For instance, many have proposed a loan facility within Parliament with strict repayment conditions where each MP can access a loaned iPad and pay in a particular quarter with deductions from their monthly emoluments. They could actually use savings from travel and other allowances that are outside their total monthly emoluments.
Alternatively, Parliament would just be a guarantor to them by allowing an external service provider to avail the iPads and pay them with deductions from their monthly emoluments.
It would be a commendable move if our MPs stopped this expenditure and instead asked the government to direct it to senior citizens of this country, who happen to be in everyone’s constituency.
Knowing the crop of our current legislators, it might not be long before we hear some of them asking for technical assistants to help them access documents or eye care services within Parliament. But one wonders whether it is because they do not have iPads that they miss plenary and committee debates? Or why they have not been able to speak with hard facts. Do they sign petitions without reading through the contents because they do not have an iPad?
Many people have high regard for the 6th Parliament for the quality of debate and its outcomes, yet Steve Jobs’ iPad and similar gadgets had even never been heard of by most Ugandans then. This is an expenditure which should be appropriately channelled to priorities of those that are the least among us, so they are able to have a meal, access drugs at a health centre or buy scholastic materials for their school-going children and orphans.
Ms Mugambe is a Ugandan citizen.