MPs mount pressure on government for Shs64b vehicles

Monday August 8 2016

MPs discuss during a plenary session chaired by the Spea

MPs discuss during a plenary session chaired by the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebeca Kadaga recently. Photo by Eric Dominic Bukenya 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Kampala- Tired of using boda bodas or hired cars, a host of enraged lawmakers, especially the new ones, have put pressure on the Parliamentary Commission to explain the fate of their vehicle grant after it emerged that the Shs150m for each of the 427 MPs to buy a new heavy duty vehicle was not budgeted for.

The Ministry of Finance excluded the Shs64.05 billion for the MPs’ vehicles after realising that the Parliamentary Commission had “overshot” its budget ceiling.

Since there are 22 new districts expected to come on board between 2016 and 2019, the additional 22 MPs will require an additional Shs3.3 billion for their vehicles.
This means the total cost for MPs vehicles will increase from about Shs40b (Shs103m each) in 9th Parliament to nearly Shs70b before the tenure of 10th Parliament elapses in May 2021.

Critics say this money would have made a difference in critical sectors such as education and health.

However, the MPs led by Mr Jacob Oboth Oboth (West Bidama South), the chairperson of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, maintain that it’s their entitlement.
Mr Oboth Oboth advised those against their vehicle deal that if Shs150m is too much, then let government buy for them brand new chauffeur-driven vehicles just like the permanent secretaries and RDCs.

“We are doing our best to harmonise the contradictions. The motor vehicles to MPs is not a privilege and nobody should try to blackmail MPs over an entitlement to be facilitated as any other public servants to do their work,” Mr Oboth Oboth told Daily Monitor at the weekend.

Sources in Parliament told Daily Monitor at the weekend that the Parliamentary Commission chaired by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga will meet this morning to chart a way forward on members’ vehicles and also discuss the cancellation of a multi-billion new chamber deal for Parliament.

This is going to be the first commission meeting since the new Parliament started its five-year journey in May.

Citing procurement irregularities, the procurement authority, PPDA, recently wrote to the Inspector General of Government recommending that the new chamber deal be retendered. Mr Chris Obore, the Parliament’s director, communication and public affairs, at the weekend confirmed today’s Parliamentary Commission meeting saying “the Commission is working to ensure that members get vehicles” to perform their statutory functions.

“The Speaker promised to have the matter handled between her and the President,” Mr Obore added.

Asked whether the President discussed MPs vehicles with the Speaker, the presidential press secretary, Mr Don Wanyama said: “Government institutions that overshoot budget ask for supplementary. Parliament will do likewise. The impression that the President has to find money somewhere for MPs cars is wrong.”

Finance minister Matia Kasaija and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rukunda, who are both are members of the Parliamentary Commission, are expected to brief the Commission on why the money for members’ vehicles was not reflected in the budget and also report on the financing of the new chamber.

On account of increased numbers in 10th Parliament, the 2016/17 budget for Parliamentary Commission has since increased from Shs371.3b in 2015/16 financial year to Shs651.9b.

However, the Finance ministry had only allocated Parliament Shs318.9b, leaving a funding gap of Shs333.1b. The funding gap included money for members’ vehicles and other things.
While the Secretary to Treasury Mr Keith Muhakanizi and Mr Kasaija didn’t pick calls when contacted yesterday, the Finance spokesperson, Mr Jim Mugunga, alluded to the supplementary budget for MPs’ vehicles and pushed the matter back to Parliament.

“The obligation to budget for MPs vehicles rests with Parliament. I am aware Parliament had not budgeted for vehicles by the time 2016/17 budget was done. I am told they have since come up with the budget… the same will go through the usual approval processes where Parliament is a key player.”