MPs have each started receiving Shs103 million as part of a generous car scheme which has been kept quiet for fear of provoking outrage at a time when poorly paid teachers and doctors have failed to win sensible concessions from the government.
Several parliamentarians speaking off-the-record confirm that they received their share two months ago although the Parliamentary Commission struggled to keep a straight face, insisting that no payments have been made as negotiations are still ongoing.
“Those who have given you this information want the public to pass a vote of no confidence in us yet Finance is dilly-dallying with the money. I have not got that direct information but let me confirm and I get back to you,” said Commissioner Emmanuel Dombo (Bunyole East).
The highest administrative organ of the House, however, finds itself in an awkward position after another Commissioner, Mr Elijah Okupa (Kasilo MP), revealed at the weekend that 98 first-term MPs have been paid.
Sources quoted Mr Okupa intimating during the Opposition retreat in Jinja that the money was released in “bits and pieces” because they were “cutting and pasting” from other parliamentary votes. “I did receive the money in December but we were warned not to divulge details given the current economic situation,” an MP from Eastern Uganda said.
“We were told that if we talked about it, we will be the ones to lose because the public will make noise,” the MP said of the payments which were made in alphabetical order. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who chairs the Parliamentary Commission, was unavailable for comment.
Other payment due
The authorities are said to have first toyed with the idea of drawing from the House Pension Fund for onward lending to members at a yearly interest of five per cent. The Finance Ministry would then replenish the fund once the country’s cash-strapped economy recovers, sources said. It is not yet clear whether this proposal was adopted.
Other sources close to the Clerk’s office also said another batch of MPs will be paid later this month before ministers who already have official vehicles, receive their due. Mr Nandala Mafabi, who has spent his first year as Leader of the Opposition loudly campaigning against wastage of public finances, yesterday said he was unaware of any payment, promising to ask Ms Kadaga if the Commission, on which he also sits, approved the car scheme.
Parliament’s Spokesperson Hellen Kawesa told Daily Monitor that “it is true the money for MPs’ vehicles will be paid to members but we are still in the negotiations … May be those MPs who received the money were paid for something else.”
The decision to consider first-time members has upset older hands like Aruu County MP Odonga Otto, who threatens a protest when Parliament reconvenes today. “I am putting you on notice and I am mobilising MPs. If you do not give us the money before Tuesday, Parliament will not open,” Mr Otto reportedly said at the Jinja retreat.
Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze’s lone opposition was reportedly roundly denounced.
“I am opposed to the Shs103 million expenditure for cars for each MP because it is a lot of money given the economic crisis that the country is going through and I suggest that we consult our parties first and our constituents on whether to take it or not,” she reportedly said.