By Job Bwire
Kabula county MP James Kakooza is sh20m richer after court ordered the Parliamentary Commission to pay him and the PWD representative, Sofia Nalule damages suffered when it held his application against the investment of the MPs’ gratuity in a special deposit account without their consent.
The case arose on March 19 this year when the former Primary Health Care minister, Kakooza petitioned the High Court presided over by Justice Elizabeth Musoke on behalf of 397 MPs demanding that legislators access their gratuity as they wished, on claims that the Parliament Remuneration of Members Act emphasized it.
Kakooza’s petition followed a September 29, 2011 decision by the parliamentary commission (respondent) to withhold MPs accrued gratuity and pay them at the end of their term of service.
The money was deposited in an account in Crane Bank for purposes of investing it on behalf of the MPs. The term of the MPs began on May 17, 2011.
In his petition, Kakooza stated that the previous mode of payment for MPs gratuity was altered without their consent.
According to evidence adduced in court, Kakooza had been receiving sh780, 000 as gratuity since September 2011.
Kakooza together with his colleagues claimed that they earlier petitioned the Parliamentary Commission and demanded that the gratuity be paid at the end of a period of 12 months of service but in vain.
He also contended that ordinary MPs were receiving monthly gratuity payment of 30% of their gross income while ministers received 40% of the same. On average, an MP’s monthly emoluments totals to about sh22m.
In her ruling on Tuesday, Musoke noted that although the decision to invest the MPs’ gratuity was in good faith and in the interest of the said members, the decision was unlawful in that it was done without their consent.
“The only problem was that the respondent apparently took the decision in consultation with the ministry of Public service on November 11, 2011 but without first consulting the members whose gratuity the respondent was planning for,” she said.
Musoke also awarded costs of sh20m in respect of only two members, Kakooza and Nalule.
“According to the evidence before court, not all members of parliament wanted their gratuity yearly or monthly. Regarding costs therefore, I shall award costs in respect of only Kakooza and Nalule who showed to have made the demand to the clerk of parliament,” added Musoke.
However, as of July 30, this year, gratuity had been paid to members’ accounts with interest which led to the respondent’s contention that Kakooza’s application had been thereby rendered nugatory.