PARLIAMENT. Death always comes at a cost not just in terms of the emotions it evokes but in actual money spent. While the end is the same, the cost of the funeral will always vary depending on one’s status in society. The higher the status, the more the money that will be spent on the funeral.
A lot of the costs fall on the shoulders of the bereaved, relatives and friends. For those in gainful employment, the employers will usually subsidise the funeral expenses
It is in that light that Parliament plans to spend Shs67.7m on burial expenses for each MP who dies.
Last week, Parliament invited bids to identify service providers who are interested in offering funeral services to the national assembly.
Perusal of the Parliament budget shows that Parliament has budgeted for an estimated five deaths this year, making a total of Shs338,680,000 planned expenses on burial of MPs.
Parliament’s public relations manager Helen Kaweesa said yesterday that the national assembly footing burial costs of MPs is not new, but it is only that this time round, it will be provided for in the official budget. She said Parliament has been meeting costs of its dead personnel.
“The Parliamentary Commission caters for funeral expenses of its staff and members of Parliament. We have to pre-qualify service providers because it is government money and we have been doing it all along,” she said.
Every three years, as per procurement law, Parliament is supposed to pre-qualify service providers to create a pool from which the national assembly can pick companies to offer services. It’s the reason the advert inviting service providers was published.
Daily Monitor learnt that currently, Parliament has only one service provider, Uganda Funeral Services, and wants to add “at least two more in the pool.”
“Parliament does not pay for services pronto. Last year, we lost three MPs in one week and the single service provider we have was over-stretched. Businesses in Uganda don’t have a lot of money; so if you ask a service provider to cater for three funerals [in succession], yet you will pay them after three months, it becomes hard on them. We need to ease service delivery,” said a Parliament official who declined to be named because he is not the spokesperson.
Speaking to Daily Monitor yesterday, Ms Regina Mukiibi, the managing director of Uganda Funeral Services, declined to divulge details of the package they usually offer to Parliament for funeral expenses.
She, however, said costs for the funeral services “depend on what someone wants to be included.”
A breakdown of expenditure of the Shs67.7m for a dead MP includes buying a state-of-the-art casket rated as American Casket at Shs6m, Shs5.5m for the grave, Shs4.5m for Order of Service books, Shs15m on feeding mourners and Shs17.5m on allowances for police.
Ms Kaweesa said although staff of Parliament also benefit from the funeral services, it is not the same as for the MPs.
Ayivu county MP Bernard Atiku said Parliament is right to meet burial costs of MPs because every institution plans for any eventualities.
Gomba District Woman MP Sylvia Nayebare supports the proposal. She says Parliament should be able to bury its members if not for anything but a show of togetherness.
“It is right. Like any other institution, it shows harmony and togetherness. It is right only if it is not overshot. I don’t think we would lose over five or more from 427 MPs,” she said.
The public, however, is not agitated about the move.
“As MPs representing constituencies, they are employed by an institution. Like any employees, burial expense is a perk. However, this needs to be reasonable. With an overburdened taxpayer, such costs should be symbolic and in kind. The amounts being mooted are not only out of touch with reality but are obscene. This can create a negative backlash. Government and Parliament need not be out of sync with an overburdened populace,” public relations expert Jimmy Kiberu said.
Public speaks out
Journalist and social media commentator Grace Natabalo says Parliament footing burial costs for MPs is “an unnecessary burden on the tax payers given the number of MPs in the House.”
“They can afford to cater for it (individually). MPs should be able to contribute to their own funerals through insurance and then Parliament can provide extra support such as transporting the body. The MPs seem to be enjoying too many perks and there has to be a limit. We cannot cater to their every need,” she said.
What they say
Helen Kaweesa, Parliament public relations manager.
“The Parliamentary Commission caters for funeral expenses of its staff and members of Parliament. We have to pre-qualify service providers because it is government money and we have been doing it all along.”
Bernard Atiku, Ayivu County MP. “The budget for burials arises out of the experience Parliament goes through every term. So what they have to do is make a budgetary allocation. I think it is in order because whatever they have allocated is within the resource envelope provided to Parliament.”
Jimmy Kiberu, Public relations expert. “As MPs representing constituencies, they are employed by an institution. Like any employees, burial expense is a perk. However, this needs to be reasonable. With an overburdened taxpayer, such costs should be symbolic and in kind.”
Grace Natabalo, Journalist. “MPs should be able to contribute to their own funerals through insurance and then Parliament can provide extra support such as transporting the body. They seem to be enjoying too many perks and there has to be a limit. We cannot cater for their every need.”
Deceased MPs in 9th Parliament
Cerinah Nebanda (Butaleja district)
Aronda Nyakairima (Army)
Namaganda Suzan (Bokomansibi Woman)
Joy Arinaitwe Kariisa (Buhweju)
Michael Oromait (Usuk)
Gregory Matovu (Bukanga)
James Mutende (Minister for Industry)
Eriya Kategaya (Rwampara)
Stephen Malinga (Butebo)
Item Cost (Shs)
American Casket 6,000,000
Transport of Casket 1,450,000
Professional Services 400,000
Pall Bearers - 1 day 150,000
Lowering Machine 150,000
Casket Tent 250,000
VIP Grave Construction 1,500,000
15 VIP Wreaths 1,500,000
Carnations (on stands) 4,300,000
Video Coverage & still photos 1,200,000
Church Choir 400,000
Order of Service books (1500) 4,500,000
Public Address systems 1,800,000
15 tents (100 seater) 3,600,000
4000 chairs for 2 days 4,000,000
Generator hire 1,600,000
Feeding (1500 people) 15,000,000
TV/Radio Announcements 800,000
Mobile toilets 600,000
Allowances to police 7,536,000
Total Cost per burial 67,736,000
Estimated number of burials X5
Total Burial Cost 338,680,000