Kampala. When President Museveni’s order to provide army snipers and bullet-proof escort cars for MPs was announced on Wednesday, the immediate images that formed in the public mind was the sight of military vehicles swarming around Parliament.
However, there is the financial side to the President’s new plan for MPs’ safety.
The government will spend between Shs866b and Shs287b to procure bullet-proof escort cars for the 456 MPs, according to estimates based on the cost of such vehicles.
On June 29, President Museveni ordered Finance minister Matia Kasaija to urgently procure bullet-proof cars with “sharp shooters” from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) to protect lives of the MPs against what he termed “terrorists”.
However, he did not give specifics on the cost of the vehicles and other related expenditures.
Daily Monitor interviews with car manufacturers revealed that a 2017/18 model bullet-proof Land Cruiser pick-up costs about $520,000 (about Shs1.9b) while a 2017/18 model bullet-proof Hilux pick-up costs about $166,000 (Shs630m).
Therefore to procure bullet-proof Land Cruisers for the 456 MPs at Shs1.9b each, the government would pay out Shs866b while to acquire 2017/18 bullet-proof Hilux model at Shs630m, it would cost government Shs287b.
According to the estimates provided by car manufacturers, 2017/18 model Land Cruiser $150,000 (not bullet-proof) costs Shs570m while a Hilux $ 50,000 (not bullet-proof) fetches Shs190m.
It must be noted that the manufacturer does not provide bullet-proof services. Therefore, to make the vehicles bullet-proof, the manufacturer will contract another company for the job.
This explains why the cost would rise from about Shs570m to Shs1.9b and Shs150m to Shs630m for Land Cruiser and Hilux models, respectively.
This cost does not include fuel, servicing and general mechanical maintenance.
In his letter that was released to MPs on Wednesday, Mr Museveni also directed that all of them be provided with army snipers to protect them from terrorists but he did not say how many snipers will guard each MP.
With these vehicles listed among the government fleet, taxpayers would have to bear the additional burden of fuelling, servicing and maintaining the vehicles while also paying salaries and allowances for the drivers.
Another important observation to make is that the Shs866b for the MPs’ escort vehicles is higher than the entire 2018/19 budget allocation to the Ministry of Agriculture, which stands at Shs831b even with the agricultural sector being the backbone of Uganda’s economy as it employs about 70 per cent of the population and contributes more than 20 per cent to GDP annually.
The 2018/19 budget allocation to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is Shs109b, way below the Shs866b that government will spend to buy the escort cars for MPs.
The Ministry of Gender is allocated Shs175b in the current national budget to cater for critical programmes like Youth Livelihood projects and Local Governments were allocated Shs22.84b while Kampala Capital City Authority will get Shs223b, with the three entities combined receiving funds way below what will be spent on MPs’ security alone.
Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi yesterday declined to comment on the cost of the MPs’ security but said the Finance ministry will advise the President how to implement the plan, considering the country’s financial situation at the moment.
“We shall advise the President the best way whether we have found the money or not. I think all I can say is that we shall advise the President or implement his decision to the best way we can upon a discussion with him,” Mr Muhakanizi said at a press briefing.
In Parliament, Ruhinda North County MP Thomas Tayebwa raised a matter of national importance and requested that MPs who want escort cars and UPDF sharp-shooters should register with the Clerk to Parliament and cars be bought for only them.
“I have never requested for such security but I saw in my name that a car will be acquired with sharp shooters; I don’t know to shoot who!” Mr Tayebwa wondered.
The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, told MPs that she will convene a meeting of the Parliamentary Commission, the body that deals with welfare of MPs, to study the security proposals made by the President and determine the next course of action.
MPs express mixed reaction on sharp-shooters
Meanwhile Members of Parliament have expressed diverse responses to President Museveni’s directive to give legislators military guards and escort vehicles.
In a letter to Finance minister Matia Kasaija on June 29, the President ordered for express procurement of bullet proof vehicles for MPs’ security. The armed guards, who Mr Museveni termed “sharp shoorters” will wear armour.
Many MPs have welcomed the move, but others have snubbed it, saying the President was only imposing an extra burden on the taxpayer.
Winnie Kiiza (Leader of Opposition in Parliament)
“It is bad planning because people will think we only think about ourselves as leaders. When we are talking about security, it should be for the whole population. We need security for everybody because if they die, we feel the impact, they are our relatives, our voters and we cannot leave them out. This is wasteful expenditure.”
Joseph Sewungu (Kalungu West, DP)
“This is shameful, especially given that it is coming from the Head of State. We have already passed the budget, where will this money come from? I do not need this vehicle. Where are they going to park? If he gives me one, I will take it to Kalungu and use it to carry my pigs. I do not need those soldiers.
Patrick Kasumba (Bujenje County, NRM)
“I am a leader serving people’s mandate. There is no need for that vehicle. I do not want it. I was elected by the people, why should I be protected from my voters? I don’t think anyone wants to harm me for anything. I have wronged no one. I have no security threats. Besides, those vehicles are an extra burden on the taxpayer.”
Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum Indp)
“It is true there is a lot of tension in the country. Many people have been killed, including MPs. This means there is need for a solution. What is important is that we must secure everyone, not only leaders. In fact it becomes dangerous if MPs are protected from their own voters.”
Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga, NRM)
“Who is going to kill you? If you were duly elected by the people, how can it be that the same people can quickly change their mind to kill you? MPs should only be honest and represent the views of their people. We should not stress the taxpayers.”
Thomas Tayebwa (Ruhinda North, NRM)
“ I don’t need a sharp shooter, now to shoot who? I think the Speaker should provide a list of MPs who want sharp shooters to get them but I pray that for some of us who don’t need them, we should get cash to take to our constituencies. We have our Health Centre IIIs rotting without renovation.”
Francis Mwijukye (Bwhweju, FDC)
“I have not asked for protection. The people of Buhweju are happy with my performance. But talking about security, the population should be secured in general, not only MPs.”
Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers, NRM)
“This is a decision of the President and Commander-In Chief who heads the country’s security. Only the President knows its viability and as a [Parliamentary] commission, we have not discussed the security of members, but we should not take it lightly if the people have been threatening to attack Parliament.”
John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya)
“With this economic stress and biting taxes, it is not good to milk the population anymore. These vehicles are not necessary. The cars alone are risky; all these people that have been killed had bodyguards.”
Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo, Ind)
“Security comes from the population. We need not waste taxpayers’ money. The government should sink this money in investigating crime and motivating the security officers rather than simply dishing it out on MPs.”