Kampala. Members of Parliament have increased their allowances by 39 per cent and that of parliamentary staff by 15 per cent, citing rising costs of living.
Headline inflation in the country, which measures fluctuation in prices of fixed basket of goods such as food and energy, stood at 3 per cent last month, according to Bank of Uganda.
MP Peter Ogwang (Usuk, NRM), who doubles as a parliamentary commissioner, said last night that their Shs6m monthly, alongside untaxed allowances, are depleted through constituents’ requests, leaving them on the edge.
“I want to call upon the public that whenever Parliament makes a case of additional money, they should listen to us, they should not castigate us that we are paid well,” he said.
Each of the 459 legislators earns anywhere between Shs15m to Shs30m every month, depending on how far their constituency is from Parliament Building in Kampala, the seat of their legislative business.
Our investigations show that the new allowances will cost taxpayers an additional Shs63.46b in the 2019/20 budget, increasing the House budget from the current Shs497.8b to Shs561.3b.
The MPs also raised their inland and overseas travel allowances, and are demanding an additional Shs20.4b for committee oversight and bench-marking trips.
Addressing newly-elected MPs at State House in 2016, President Museveni warned them against scrambling for trips and roaming around the world like Christopher Columbus, a 15th Century Italian explorer, yet Ugandans expect them to deliver services.
The roles of MPs under the Constitution include making laws, appropriating public resources, providing oversight on the spending and representing views of their constituents.
They do so by attending and contributing to debates, both in sittings of committees of Parliament and the plenary as well as consulting voters on matters of national importance.
News of the increase in allowances comes at a time when an internal report shows the lawmakers are posting less-than-satisfactory performance, and deteriorating quality of debate and inordinate delay in handling critical reports of key government institutions as prescribed by law.
Mr Jim Mugunga, the Finance ministry spokesperson, last evening said they were not aware of the pay raise and expect that Parliament, as a key institution in allocating national resources, would be the last to “distort” the budget.
“The Ministry of Finance presented the available resource envelope for the coming financial year to Parliament for consideration,” he said, “[And] we do not hide other revenues for future use outside the natural budgetary process”.
The Parliamentary Commission, which the Speaker of Parliament chairs, is responsible for determining the remuneration and welfare of lawmakers.
Article 85 of the Constitution states that MPs are entitled to determine their emoluments, a privilege no other public officials enjoy.
The upward variation in their untaxed allowances follows clamour for pay raise by different groups of government employees in a country without a Salary Review Commission, as demanded by various sections of the public, to harmonise the presently staggering remuneration in public service.
The House on Wednesday did not debate the latest raise in allowances when the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee presented the changes.
Kabula MP James Kakooza, in what one source described as a “choreographed” act, thwarted discussion on the matter by moving an impromptu motion that the report be adopted because “the figures are clear and the report is elaborate.”
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.
Roles of parliament
Article 79 (1) of the Constitution: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament shall have power to make laws on any matter for the peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda.”
Article 85 of the Constitution provides that: “A Member of Parliament shall be paid such emoluments, such gratuity and pension, and shall be provided with such facilities, as may be determined by Parliament.”