Parliament seeks Shs125b for per diem, salaries

Speaker of Parliament Anita Annet Among conducts plenary on April 12, 2024.  PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The request for more funds comes just after weeks of intense scrutiny by social activists into the spending patterns of the Legislature, and its leadership with allegations of mismanagement and lavish spending.  

Parliament has endorsed an increase of its budget by Shs125b to cater for salaries, travel, per diem and operational costs in the offices of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Leader of Opposition and Government Chief Whip, the provision of which will see the institution’s budget hit the trillion mark. 

During the plenary sitting on April 12, legislators adopted the report by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that scrutinises the budget of the Parliamentary Commission with no debate, where the proposal is contained.

At the same sitting, the Legislators, who play the appropriation role, also rejected a proposal by the Ministry of Finance to cut their budget by Shs78b from Shs945.5b for the current financial year. This would bring the institution’s budget to Shs866.8 billion. 

According to the report, Speaker Anita Among, her deputy Thomas Tayebwa, Government Chief Whip Hamson Obua, Leader of Opposition Joel Ssenyonyi, and the Parliamentary Commission Secretariat require more money to attend both local and international engagements, hence the need for more funds.  

“This shortfall arose from increasing invitations locally and internationally requiring official engagements and participation of these offices… The Committee recommends that additional Shs37.685 billion be provided to cater for the operational shortfall,” the report states. 

Of the extra billions, Shs3.747 billion will be used for staff allowances, NSSF and pension contributions, while Shs1.6b will cater for the Annual contribution to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).  

Shs82.272 billion will be spent on legislative, oversight and representation functions.
“If not addressed, will impede timely and responsive oversight, legislation, and representation function,” the report adds.

The request for more funds comes just after weeks of intense scrutiny by social activists into the spending patterns of the legislature, and its leadership with allegations of mismanagement and lavish spending.  

A trove of documents they said was printed off the government’s Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), showed Speaker Among to have spent several billions of shillings in donations passed through private bank accounts of subordinate staff.

The campaign exposed questionable allowance pay-out to legislators for overseas and inland travels, some of which appeared not to have been taken or lasted for fewer days than claimed.  A probe by the Office of the Auditor General is said to be currently underway, even as Speaker Among has blocked any form of discussion on the matter by legislators.

In the Financial 2022/2023, the budget for the Speaker’s office stood at Shs8.2b, her deputy’s at Shs7.4b while the LoP was allocated Shs4.4b. The allocations increased in the current financial year, a trend that, according to the report, will continue in the 2024/25 fiscal year. 

Cuts rejected
The report argues that a reduction of the budget would create a wage shortfall, meaning some of its current staff would not be paid their salaries. 

“The Committee recommends that Shs78.698bn be provided to restore the Parliamentary Commission’s budget to the current operating level,” the report states.

An earlier proposal by the Executive to halve the Parliament budget sparked outrage, with Speaker Among slamming the move as calculated to undermine the institution and members’ welfare.  

In an earlier interview with this publication after the House spoke tough on alleged plans to half its budget, Mr Wandera Ogalo, Constitutional Lawyer and former Member of Parliament opined that a salaries board be established to harmonise salaries, allowances, and emoluments of legislators, shifting it from the discretion of the Parliamentary Commission