The learned justices of the Supreme Court deserve gratitude for taming MPs’ appetite for cash, and ending the transgressions in Parliament.
The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment on Thursday ruled that MPs cannot unilaterally increase their pay without involvement of the Executive.
In a unanimous decision, a coram of seven judges upheld a 2016 Constitutional Court verdict that declared Section 5 of the Parliament (Remuneration of Members of Parliament) Act “unconstitutional”.
Kudos to Mr Wilson Mwesigye, a concerned citizen from Mubende District who first petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging MPs powers to determine their pay. He ran to court after he realised that Parliament had turned into a bottomless pit and a liability to the taxpayers.
The judges displayed knowledge of the law and exhibited utmost levels of patriotism. The overburdened taxpayers were sick and tired of MPs’ insatiable appetite. It’s critical that the House supports the President in putting an end to haemorrhage of public resources.
We cannot afford to blow billions on MPs yet our country is still a poor with high levels of inequality and youth unemployment. We need money for schools, hospitals, roads and other critical wealth creation initiatives. The agitation for pay rise shouldn’t come at the expense of pressing budget priorities.
For years, MPs kept increasing their pay in disregard of those they represent in the House. At first, they would discuss their pay in the open but when the electorates started noticing symptoms of greed, the Parliamentary Commission, in complicity with the Clerk to Parliament and Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee members, devised sneaky ways of hiding Budget details from journalists. The strategy has not worked. The details have continued to leak.
In April, MPs increased their allowances by 39 per cent and that of parliamentary staff by 15 per cent, citing rising costs of living. They also raised their inland and overseas travel allowances, and demanded extra Shs20.4b for committee oversight and bench-marking trips. This infuriated Finance ministry officials reacted with consternation and accused MPs of disorganising the budget priorities.
The Supreme Court ruling, however, gives us a fresh start. Let’s establish a Salaries Review Commission to set public pay including MPs remuneration and also deal with the massive disparities in the public sector pay.
Any substantive Bill or motion introduced by the Executive in respect of MPs pay should not be a bargain chip to address political squabbles but the focus must be on restoring equity in the pay structures. This will end the unrest in the civil service and endless demands for salary increments.