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Low earnings killing councillors’ morale

By Vision Reporter

Added 25th July 2007 03:00 AM

IT has been reported from several local governments that councillors are not happy with their allowances. In several districts, for example, some councillors “refused” to pass the budget until their allowances were paid. Councillors, especially in the rural areas, argue that their allowances are

IT has been reported from several local governments that councillors are not happy with their allowances. In several districts, for example, some councillors “refused” to pass the budget until their allowances were paid. Councillors, especially in the rural areas, argue that their allowances are

By Joshua Kato

IT has been reported from several local governments that councillors are not happy with their allowances. In several districts, for example, some councillors “refused” to pass the budget until their allowances were paid. Councillors, especially in the rural areas, argue that their allowances are so meagre that they are sometimes useless to them.

“We receive sh5,000 per sitting. This is not even enough for us to pay for our transport to the sub-county,” says a councillor in Iganga.

According to the Local Government Act, councillors are supposed to share 20% of the taxes collected from their areas in the previous financial year. This is spread out according to the number of meetings that the council holds throughout the year. Like in Parliament, councillors are permitted by the law to decide how much they will be paid.

Every sub-county council, according to the law, must have at least two sittings every quarter of the year and at least one sitting for the committees in the same period. However, the law does not give the total number of meetings that should be held.

Organising these meetings is costly, especially for the lower local governments. “Since the scrapping of the graduated tax, LC3s throughout the country cannot hold the obligatory council meetings due to lack of funds,” says John Wycliffe Karazarwe, the LC5 chairman of Ntungamo and chairman of the Uganda Local Governments Association.

Organising a council meeting requires a lot of money. For example, some councils have to hire halls, provide food and pay councillors’ allowances.

Until two years ago, district chairpersons were being paid by the district. However, this was changed due to complaints by local councils that they did not have enough money to pay salaries. The chairpersons are now paid sh2m by the Government, while LC3 chairpersons get sh300,000. The chairpersons are also given allowances by their councils and transport to the site if they have work to supervise.

The Government set sh25,000 as the lowest amount that can be paid to a councillor. Most LC3 chairpersons are, however, not happy because their allowances are subject to the Pay as You Earn tax.

“We remain with about sh270,000 after taxation, yet the law does not allow us to get any allowances, except when supervising work,” says Rashid Mwesigye, the LC3 chairman of Bubandi in Bundibugyo district.

The LC3 chairpersons from western Uganda recently met in Mbarara and voiced their displeasure about the meagre remuneration.

“We requested the Ministry of Local Government to help sub-county chairpersons acquire vehicles because most sub-counties do not have the funds to buy cars,” Mwesigye says.

Highest paid councillors
There is no uniform payment for councillors throughout the country. Every council pays allowances basing on the available resources.

Although rural councillors have more challenges like meeting transport costs to the council, the highest paid councillors are in urban areas like Kampala, Jinja, Mbarara, Mbale, Mukono and Wakiso, which have a huge tax base.

“We used to receive sh800,000 in allowances, but this was reduced to sh300,000 by the Government,” says a Kampala Central Division councillor.

In most urban local governments, the allowances are paid monthly. “In Kawempe Division, we sit twice a month,” says Lt. Ahmed Katono, a councillor for Kikaaya Parish. This means a monthly take-home of about sh600,000. In addition, every councillor is a member of a committee. Allowances for committees are different from those for council meetings. Councillors in urban areas take home up to sh800,000 a month, yet some of them have been reported to receive kick-backs from tenderers.

“I know of some councillors who visit tendering companies and ask for kick-backs,” Moses Kalungi, the LC3 chairman of Makindye Division, said during the recent budget reading.

In Luweero, the district chairman, Ronald Ndawula, says councillors are not happy with their allowances.

“The figures have been going down since the scrapping of graduated tax,” he says.

Currently, the councillors receive sh150,000 per sitting. This is in addition to sh100,000 paid to councillors on different committees per sitting.

The case in Luweero is similar to most districts of Buganda, other than Mukono and Wakiso, where councillors are paid sh400,000 per sitting.

Nelson Chelimo, the LC5 chairman of Kapchorwa district, says councillors are paid sh100,000 per sitting.

“We sit at least twice a year, but if we had more resources, we would have more sessions,” he says. If they sit six times per year, it means that each of them will take home sh600,0000, in addition to earnings from committee meetings.

In Masaka district, according to Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja, the LC5 chairman, the council sits at least twice per quarter and at least three times for committees.

“We also hold extra-ordinary meetings if the need arises. For example, the Government has just changed the budgetary ceilings. We have to sit and discuss them,” he says.

The highest paid councillors earn up to sh10m per year in allowances, while the least paid get sh75,000, yet most of the councillors do the same work. It is the intervention of the Ministry of Local Government that can create parity in the councillors’ earnings. Hopefully, when the collection of the newly-established Local Service Tax starts, rural councillors’ earnings will increase.


Low earnings killing councillors’ morale

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