Cost of maintaining 11th Parliament to rise by over Shs50b

The 10th Parliament in session. The cost of maintaining the next Parliament is expected to rise in excess of Shs50b over its five-year tenure. PHOTOS | FILE

What you need to know:

  • 11th Parliament. The new batch of MPs joining the House will include five representatives of the elderly; another 12 women MPs for new districts that became operational between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2020, seven from the new cities and those from the 46 constituencies.

The cost of maintaining the next Parliament is expected to rise in excess of Shs50b over its five-year tenure, adding to the burden that the taxpayer is already enduring.

The rise was occasioned by the decision by the 10th Parliament to pass a motion in July 2020 providing for the creation of 46 counties and other motions that will see the number of MPs in the 11th Parliament increase to 514.

At the end of June 2020, the minister of Local Government, Mr Raphael Magyezi, indicated that the ministry had sought to create only 15 districts, but as he was to later explain, the decision to increase the number of counties by 31 was precipitated by demands.

“We have done consultations, we have reviewed requests and considered recommendations of the 2015 report of the Parliament Committee on Public Service and Local Government recommending creation of additional counties,” Mr Magyezi said.
Then in August 2020, the MPs voted to create five parliamentary seats for elderly persons. One of the seats was ring-fenced for women.

Under the arrangement, each of the regions – central, eastern, northern and western – will have a representative elected by an elders’ council constituted by elders from all districts in the particular region. The National Female MP for the elderly will be elected by the national elders’ council, which will be constituted of delegates from all the regions.

Beyond 500 MPs
The 10th Parliament has 457 MPs, 12 of them ex-officio, but with the passing of the July, August and other motions, the number of MPs expected in the 11th Parliament will be at least 514.
The new batch of MPs joining the House will include five representatives of the elderly; another 12 women MPs for new districts that became operational between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2020, seven from the new cities and those from the 46 constituencies.

What next Parliament will cost
Whereas Parliament draws heavily from the public purse in order to pay MPs and sustain its other activities, it has always maintained an incomprehensible secrecy around what it pays out as salaries and allowances to the legislators. MPs too will not discuss their emoluments.

In line with that, Parliament’s acting director of communications and public relations, Ms Hellen Kawesa, declined to give Sunday Monitor any substantial figures.
“You will not get a definite monthly salary because their (MPs) mileage is incorporated in yet it varies from MP to MP depending on the distance between Kampala and the particular MP’s constituency,” Ms Kawesa said.

10th Parliament vs 11th Parliament’s perks
Information obtained from the Parliamentary Commission indicates that each MP is entitled to a monthly salary of Shs25 million; a one off vehicle allowance of Shs150 million; a subsistence allowance of Shs4.5 million a month; a town running allowance of Shs1 million per a month, a medical allowance of Shs500,000 per a month; a sitting allowance of Shs50,000 for committee meetings; a plenary sitting allowance of Shs150,000; as well as mileage allowances.

Mileage allowance is determined based on the distance between Parliament and the furthest point of the particular MP’s constituency.
Other allowances include an inland travel per diem for Shs150,000 a night, a foreign travel per diem of $520 (approximately Shs1.9 million), air tickets when on official business and facilities like iPads.
Amounts spent on inland and foreign travel were difficult to compute as there were no actual figures on who went where for how many days or nights.
The same applies to sitting allowances for committee and plenary sessions as they are dependent on how busy a committee is and how frequently an MP attended.

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.

Even if the 11th Parliament does not follow in the footsteps of its predecessors who previously determined their own emoluments, the sheer numbers are going to cause an upward spiral in the cost of maintaining the Members of Parliament.

If the present cost of the value of a vehicle for each legislator is maintained at Shs150 million, the cost of vehicles will be Shs77.11b for the 514 MPs.
The 10th Parliament spent Shs68.55b on vehicles for the 457 legislators, which means that vehicles for members of 11th Parliament are going to cost the taxpayer Shs77b, slightly under Shs8.6b more than it cost in 2016.

If the monthly salary is maintained at Shs25 million per MP, the monthly remuneration to the 514 MPs will rise to Shs12.85b a month and Shs154.2b a year or Shs771b over the five-year period.
Parliament has been paying Shs11.425b per a month, which translates into Shs137.1b a year in salaries to members of the 10th Parliament.

The total amount that will have been paid as salaries to the 457 MPs in the 10th Parliament will have by the end of their tenure comes down to Shs685.5b. That means that the taxpayer will be paying Shs85.5b more on salaries for the 11th Parliament than it will have paid to the current cohort of MPs.

Subsistence allowance
The subsistence allowances of Shs4.5 million for each of the 514 MPs will come down to Shs2.313b per month and Shs27.756b a year, or Shs138.78b over a five-year period.
Each MP has been receiving a subsistence allowance of Shs4.5 million, which comes down to Shs2.056b a month and Shs24.6b a year, or Shs123b over a five-year period. That, therefore, signifies that the burden on the taxpayer is to increase by another Shs15.78 billion.

Town running allowances
The Shs1 million town running allowance will rise to Shs514 million per month and Shs6.168b per year, or Shs30.84b over a five-year period.
The town running allowance of Shs1 million per MP comes down to Shs457 million per month, Shs5.484b a year and Shs27.42 billion over the five years.
That signifies an increment of Shs3.42b in what will be paid as town running allowance to the MPs over their five-year tenure.

Medical allowance
The medical allowance if maintained at Shs500,000 will rise to Shs257 million per month or Shs15.4b over a five-year period, up from Shs228.5 million a month or Shs13.7b over the five-year period. That signifies and increment of Shs1.7b.
Computation of the increments in salaries, car, subsistence, running and medical allowances suggest that expenditure will rise by at least Shs30b.

Other allowances
That figure is always going to shoot up to in excess of Shs50 million given that the provision of air tickets, per diems for inland travel and travel abroad, and sitting allowances for committees are paid at the rate of Shs50,000 per sitting and sitting allowance for plenary sessions are paid at Shs150,000 per sitting.

Legislators also receive a mileage allowance computed based on the distance between Parliament and the furthest point of an individual MP’s constituency.
Estimation of what Parliament pays out in sitting allowances, per diems and mileage is problematic as the number of sittings, both committee and plenary, that MPs attend vary from person to person. The same applies to mileage as it varies from one MP to another.

Per diem for travel abroad is at $520 (Shs1.9m) per a night and Shs150,000 on inland travel. Sunday Monitor could not arrive at what was spent on those items as it could not establish the number of internal and external trips that the legislators have so far made and to where.

However, based on the figures that we could lay our hands on, the 10th Parliament will have spent a total of Shs783.858b on salaries, purchase of vehicle and payment of running and medical allowances for its members, a figure which no doubt shoots up beyond the Shs1.3trillion mark if mileage, sitting allowances, plenary allowances, air tickets and per diem for in land travel and travel abroad are factored.

Exponential growth of Parliament
Whereas Parliament has been growing over the years, starting with 82 members in 1961 and rising to 112 in the last general election before Independence; 120 in the National Consultative Council (NCC) and: 126 in 1980, the biggest growth has been experienced in the NRM era.

The National Resistance Council (NRC), which served as the 5th Parliament, was initially consisted of 38 historical members of the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A).
However, following countrywide elections held by electoral colleges at district level, it was expanded to 270 members.
An additional four women representatives were added to the House following the creation in March 1991 of the districts of Kisoro, Pallisa, Kiboga and Kibaale.

Another woman representative joined the lot in March 1993 when Ntungamo District was created. That saw the number rise to 275.
The 6th Parliament approved the creation of 17 new districts, which led to an increase in the number of district women representatives from 39 to 59. That raised the total number of MPs to 300 down from 283.
During the 8th Parliament, the number of MPs increased to 326, increased by 49 during the 9th Parliament before reaching the 457 mark in the 10th Parliament.

One of the biggest criticism against the NRM government has been around its decision to maintain such a bloated and largely ineffective Parliament, but President Museveni while presiding over the election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker ahead of commencement of work of the 10th Parliament, said Uganda’s is “a liberation Parliament”.

Questions around whether Uganda needs such a big Parliament have returned to the fore. Ms Cissy Kagaba, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) argues that it is not necessary for a country with a small population and economy to have a big Parliament.
“You don’t need 514 MPs to enact laws and offer oversight... it’s a total abuse of the process and wastage of monies that would have improved service delivery,” she argues.

She notes that the two biggest countries and economies in East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, have smaller parliaments than Uganda.
Kenya, with a population of 46.44 million people, has 349 members and 67 senators while Tanzania with a population of 49.25 million people has 356 MPs.
Mr Julius Kapwepwe of the Uganda Debt Network (UDN), questions whether Uganda has ever gotten value for such a big number of legislators, insisting that most of them end their tenure in Parliament without making even a single contribution.

“Several MPs have only opened their mouth to say good morning and to eat while in committees. With overall gross underperformance of Parliament as manifested in the more than 150 Petitions, 70 reports, 30 Bills and attendant legal controversies unresolved, it is clear that such a huge Parliament is not necessary.” Mr Kapwepwe argues.
Mr Kapwepwe calls for reforms to provide for a leaner government.

“Government is overdue for reforms with a view to a leaner administration and legislature. We can do with about 80 MPs, which will generally shrink the high cost of public administration. Funds can then be released from the fangs of ever-bloated recurrent budgets to development budgets, which has benefits that accrue in real terms to the citizen and for Uganda to be competitive in the East African Community,” Mr Kapwepwe argues.