Military officers prepare to lower the casket containing the body of Gen Elly Tumwine into the grave at his ancestral home in Mukuru Village, Rwemikoma Sub-county in Kazo District on August 30, 2022. PHOTO/FELIX AINEBYONA

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What it will cost to bury president, MPs and ministers

What you need to know:

  • If Cabinet approves the draft policy the funeral expenses for MPs currently budgeted at Shs67.7m, will increase to Shs240m.  

The Ministry of Public Service has made a raft of proposals for Cabinet consideration to standardise funeral and burial expenses for notable Ugandans, citing unending difficulties in conducting state and official burials.

A state burial is provided in law for specified public officers while official funeral is granted by the President to any person for, among others, their exceptional contribution to the country or other causes.

Under the proposals, it will cost up to Shs500m to bury a sitting president and vice president, Shs300m for funeral and burial expenses of former vice president, speaker or the deputy, the chief justice or the deputy and eligible judicial and accountability honchos, including the government Ombudsman.

The funeral of senior and junior ministers as well as a Leader of Opposition who dies while in office and ex-prime minister will cost Shs240m.

In the blueprint titled, Uganda Funeral Management Policy 2022, sources said the government seeks to stop “haemorrhage of public resources” through inflated state and official funeral or other burial arrangements. 

Bureaucrats involved in drafting the proposals now before Cabinet argued that the multiplicity of provisions in various regulations and legislations governing the management of national funerals have complicated coordination and led to overbilling and infighting over the dead.

Cash bonanza
Ms Mary Mugasa, the State minister for Public Service, told Monitor on Wednesday, this week, that in the previous cases involving state or official burial, the government did not have budgetary caps and in the process, a lot of money was lost without proper accountability.

“[The] government is spending too much, we want to make sure everything is streamlined and standardised…there are categorises for the beneficiaries in the proposed policy…,” she said.

The minister added: “I have witnessed at least four [government-funded funerals]; the first MP, who died in office, the Emorimor burial…. people started making proposals asking the government to fly the body to Kenya, others wanted us to fly the body to Soroti etc ... the death of Orthodox Archbishop Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga…and when it came to the funeral of the former Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, it was too much. People demanding allowances, fuel and dress code to be sponsored by the government. Others wanted to cry. It became a cash bonanza.” 

Former Speaker Oulanyah died in the United States on March 20 and was accorded a state funeral that the government said would be a “befitting send-off” for the third highest ranking government official in the national order of precedence.

Police pallbearers prepare to roll the casket containing the remains of former Speaker Jacob Oulanyah at Parliament on April 5, 2022. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

The initial budget prepared by the National Organising Committee chaired by the Presidency Minister, Ms Milly Babalanda, was Shs2.5b. This excluded medical and funeral home bills in the US as well as expenses of flying back the body.

After this publication exposed the budget estimates, bureaucrats slashed the budget first to Shs1.8b and again to Shs1.5b, although the final expenditure was not publicly disclosed.

Why new policy
The new policy document highlights existing legal and policy gaps regulating management of funerals/burials of notable Ugandans and speaks of resource abuses, including overbilling.

Proponents hope provisions in the draft document, if approved by Cabinet, will fix the loopholes and standardise procedure, assistance to bereaved families, insignias used, and create certainty on criteria for choosing beneficiaries, incorporation of culture and modernity, and clarify roles played by different stakeholders.

Public Service minister Muruli Mukasa said the proposals “mirror all aspects of past experiences in organising state, official, and other funerals and enlists appropriate ways in which we can honour our fallen citizens with dignity and at a minimal cost.”

Whereas the government had previously issued an appropriate regulatory framework in the management of state and official funerals, Minister Mukasa, in his foreword, alludes to endemic problems associated with the organisation, standardisation of benefits, selection of beneficiaries, and lack of special attention to other citizens who die in big numbers after calamities, natural disasters and accidents.

“The state, he notes, “should have responsibility to give them a decent send-off.”

To close the gaps in the existing regulations, Public Service ministry has provided five funeral categories under the draft policy that officials said was before Cabinet, with each aligned to corresponding package.

The provisions aim to bind the government to incur all expenses for funerals/burials of eligible persons, excluding international transfers of bodies unless the deceased died while on official duty.

Such expenditure includes burial costs such as grave construction or cremation, and casket costs and service expenses (including printing of the order of service).

To make this work, the Public Service ministry has divided funeral/burial offering into five categories, listed in the document as A, B, C, D and E.

Funeral budget lines
State Funeral Category A provides that a sitting president and former presidents will be accorded honours already provided under Emoluments and Benefits of the President, Vice President and Prime Minister Act 2010.

The funeral benefits for a president who dies while in office are broadly spelled out in Section 14 and detailed in the fourteenth schedule of the Act and include, a cap on expenditure up to 30 percent of the gross annual salary of the deceased.

A Ugandan President currently earns Shs3.6m per month, totalling Shs43.2m a year, 30 percent of which computes to about Shs13m. At current market prices, such allocation might pay for only a casket, which might even cost higher.

Other funeral benefits for a president who dies while in office, include an official statement on the death on television, radio, print media and other electronic media, a declaration of mourning period during which flags fly at half-mast, body lying in state for two days, the casket cortege being escorted by police in top-roof flashlight vehicles and uniformed pall bearers drawn from the Armed forces or Police force ceremonially carrying the casket, declaration of burial day as a public holiday and 21-gun salute.

There are similar honours specified in the Emoluments and Benefits of the President, Vice President and Prime Minister Act, 2010, for the funeral and burial of a vice president, except with a 17-gun salute.

In the current proposals, the Public Service ministry references these provisions, but under point 8.1 of the draft caps expenses on eligible beneficiaries under Category A at 25,000 currency points, which is Shs500m.

It remained unclear if the provisions in the Act and policy will apply simultaneously, or whether one will take precedence over the other.

UPDF officers escort the gun carriage carrying the casket of Gen Elly Tumwine before the body was flown to his ancestral home in Kazo District in August. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

In the blueprint, the government proposes to spend up to Shs300m on Category B state funerals, which covers former vice president, incumbent Speaker of Parliament, the Chief Justice, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, the Deputy Chief Justice, Prime Minister, spouse of a serving President, spouse of the incumbent Vice President and Chief Justice, and all other judicial officers specified under Schedule 3 of the Administration of the Judiciary Act, 2020.

The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, former Prime Minister, incumbent Cabinet Minister, Minister of State and Member of Parliament (MP) fall under official funeral Category C and the proposed cap for their funeral expenses is Shs240 million.

This is almost four-fold higher than Shs67.7m that the Parliamentary Commission allocated in September 2016 for burial expenses of an MP who passes on while in office. If approved, it means the funeral of a lawmaker will cost tax payers an additional Shs172.3m.

Of the Shs67.7m, there is a Shs6m set aside for a state-of-the-art American casket, Shs5.5m for grave preparation, Shs4.5m for order of service books, Shs15m on feeding mourners and Shs17.5m on allowances for police.

Official funeral Category D provides for all officers stipulated in the Salaries and Allowances (Specified Officers) Act, 1999; persons of extraordinary credentials specifically designated by the President; eminent persons of the society who have made enormous contribution to Uganda; gazetted and recognized cultural leaders as per the 1995 Constitution; and heads of recognised religious institutions.

The Public Service ministry proposes to allocate Shs200m for the funeral/burial expenses of individuals in this category.

Mass numbers
The government has also earmarked Shs10m to cater for the burial of people under “Other Funeral Category E”. This category includes citizens who die in big numbers as a result of natural disaster, war, epidemics and mass accidents on the road, in water, air flights, industrial and construction settings. 

In case of any calamity or natural disaster, the ministry of Public of Service proposes that the government provides the victims a decent burial and compensate the families of the victims and consider flying the flags at half-mast and declare at least one day of national mourning in their honour.

Ms Catherine Bitarakwate, the permanent secretary in the ministry, confirmed the draft policy and without providing specifics, said they had finalised the National Funerals Policy 2022 draft and submitted to Cabinet for consideration.

She said coordination of national funerals had in the past been challenging due to disjointed legal and regulatory framework. It was in this regard that the ministry said it was compelled to develop a Uganda Funeral Management Policy to harmonise all provisions. The PS reiterated that the framework incorporates emerging issues that have been raised by stakeholders.

In one of the closed-door meetings at the ministry, some officials had suggested that if any beneficiary is convicted of an indictable criminal offence, all entitlements previously available to them under the proposed policy and other regulations would be forfeited. 

Similarly, it was also suggested that senior public officials removed from office would no longer automatically qualify for the entitlements outlined under the draft Uganda Funeral Management Policy.  The 1995 Constitution guarantees a state funeral for only the President, Vice President, Speaker of Parliament, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and the Prime Minister.

The law, however, grants the President discretion to grant anyone official burial, which would oblige the state to pick up all funeral/burial bills. Some notable Ugandans who have been given official funerals include the former Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi, Iteso Emorimor Augustine Osuban Lemukol, late Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, former State minister for Defence under Milton Obote II government, Peter Otai, plus former presidents, Sir Edward Mutesa, Apollo Milton Obote, and Godfrey Binaisa.

 In 2005, Uganda government reportedly spent Shs798m on Obote’s final medical bills abroad and eventual funeral/burial at his home in Akokoro in northern Uganda.

Key items 

For a state funeral 
 a)  Food and drinks (residence & burial site)
b) Funeral services (body handling and casket)
c) Grave construction 
d) Laying in State at Parliament
e) Church expenses
f)Tents, Chairs and Mobile toilets
g) Publicity
h) Transport for immediate family
i) Security
j) Transportation and setup of the VVIP, other tents and chairs
k) Accommodation of foreign dignitaries
l) Coordination expenses for the NFM Committee 
m) Grading access road to burial site
n) Condolence package  

For official funeral
a) Food and drinks (residence & burial site)
b)  Funeral Services (body handling and casket)
c) Grave construction
d) Laying in State at Parliament (category C only)
e) Church expenses
f)Tents, chairs and mobile toilets
g) Publicity
h)Transport for immediate family
i) Security
j) Transportation and setup of the VVIP, other tents and chairs
k) Accommodation of foreign dignitaries
l) Coordination expenses for the National Funeral Management Committee 
m)Grading access road to burial site
n)Condolence package for bereaved family

Other funerals
 a)Food and Drinks
b) Funeral Services (body handling and casket)
c)Grave construction and finishing
d)Publicity (for only mass disaster victims)
e)Transport for immediate family
f)Security
g)Transportation and setup of the VVIP, other tents and chairs
h)Accommodation of foreign dignitaries (state funeral)
i)Coordination expenses for the National Funeral Management Committee 
j)Grading access road to burial site (for only mass burial)
k) Condolence package 

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