Kampala-Members of Parliament, are taking advantage of a constitutional provision that allows them to determine their emoluments to haemorrhage public resources and rip off already overburdened tax payers, a consortium of civil society organisations on budget matters, said yesterday.
The lawmakers, who number 459 in the 10th Parliament, have increased their allowances by 39 per cent and that of parliamentary staff by 15 per cent, citing increasing cost of living.
The increase in the MPs’ allowances, which are tax-exempt, will raise the spending on their pay by Shs63.46b in the 2019/20 Financial Year, up from the current Shs497.8b.
“This move concerns us considering that there are other more pressing budget demands,” said Julius Mukunda, the executive director of Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG).
He added: “The National Medical Stores budget for supply of anti-malarial medicines accredited facilities was cut from Shs10.2b to 4.7b in the Financial Years 2018/19 and 2019/20 respectively. This new resource that MPs are adding on their allowances can be used to upscale such critical sections of our budget.”
Ms Jane Kibirige, the Clerk to Parliament, said she is not aware of any pay raise for legislators in the new budget that takes effect on July 1.
“The budget we sent to the President does not have such a thing…what we presented does not have any of the things as approved by the committee,” she said yesterday.
CSBAG said MPs’ decision to vary their entitlements upwards on the grounds of rising costs of leaving was selfish and insensitive to the plight of other public servants.
In a separate interview, Mr Chris Obore, the Parliament director for Communications and Public Affairs, said the increase in parliamentary commission budget is not for higher allowances for MPs, but to cater for costs of hosting the Commonwealth Parliamentary conference in Kampala later in September.
In any case, he said, Parliament makes budget proposal but the money “released depends on the availability of funds”.
“The country does not run a parliamentary budget where Parliament has the final say, but we run an executive budget system. Parliament only advises the executive on priorities and can make budget adjustment to a certain level, not wholly. Parliament does not have the leeway to charge the consolidated Fund,” he noted.
Uganda’s Constitution vests power to appropriate national resources, as well as providing oversight, on Parliament.
Until now, the new details of the Parliamentary Commission budget, including the justification for members’ new higher allowances, were not publicly disclosed.
They want Shs19b to cater for emoluments and salaries of MPs to be elected for approved new districts, turning operational on rolling basis each new financial year.
An April 2019 internal report by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee questions the performance of lawmakers, citing delay to “expeditiously” handle Auditor General, Inspectorate of Government and Uganda Human Rights Commission reports as required by law.
The committee noted that MPs had nearly exhausted recurrent expenditure in the 2018/19 budget for Parliament yet parliamentary committees conducted only 62 out of 150 planned field visits and 23 out of 40 public hearings.
“While 18 Bills have been passed by Parliament during the FY20l8/19, the quality of legislation over time has deteriorated as evidenced from a number of litigations against various legislations. In some instances, pieces of legislation have been recalled for review and others not implementable while some creating contradictions in government policies.”
The committee blames this situation on limited capacity in Parliament to adequately analyse proposed legislation brought by the executive and private members. To strengthen institutional capacity of Parliament departments, MPs want Shs27.3b in additional funds under capacity building arrangement.
An additional Shs20b is also needed to prepare for the upcoming Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Uganda.