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Thursday,August 06,2020 00:49 AM

Do MPs deserve sh15m per month?

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th October 2009 03:00 AM

MPs increased their monthly net pay by sh2m this financial year. This is due to the fact that their constituency allowance went up from sh1.2m to sh3.2m a month.

MPs increased their monthly net pay by sh2m this financial year. This is due to the fact that their constituency allowance went up from sh1.2m to sh3.2m a month.

- MPs increased their pay by sh7.6b this year
- Total Parliament expenditure is sh122b
- Average MP takes home sh14.5m a month, 4 times Uganda’s per capita income
- Parliament not meeting its own set targets


BY LYDIA NAMUBIRU

MPs increased their monthly net pay by sh2m this financial year. This is due to the fact that their constituency allowance went up from sh1.2m to sh3.2m a month.

The increment is meant to better facilitate the legislators’ work in their constituencies, according to the Parliament spokesperson Hellen Kaweesa.

Considering that there are 332 MPs, 319 of whom have a constituency, this means an additional cost of sh7.6b a year.

Overall, Parliament will cost Ugandan taxpayers sh122b this financial year. About 63% of that – or sh77b – goes directly to MPs’ pockets as salary, allowances, facilitation for travel abroad and other emoluments.

This is the second increment in as many years. Last financial year, the legislators increased their fuel allowances to the tune of sh7.7b a year.

The number of MPs, too, keeps increasing. Their number has multiplied more than four-fold since independence – from 80 in 1962 to 332 today

The Eighth Parliament has almost 20% more MPs than the Seventh Parliament, which had 276 members. With the number of MPs increasing and pay rises being approved every year, many Ugandans openly wonder if taxpayers must continue to foot the bill of maintaining our Parliament.

Saturday Vision calculated that an average Ugandan MP earns about 14.5m per month after taxes.

This is more than the net pay of their counterparts in the Netherlands, Finland and Belgium – among the richest countries in the world.

MPs who head committees may earn up to sh16m while others, like those who get a small mileage allowance because their constituency is closer to Kampala, may earn just under sh14m.

Although an MP’s basic salary is only sh2.6m, their allowances are almost four times that amount. On top of their salaries, MPs get monthly constituency, subsistence, mileage, town run and gratuity allowances.

Those who chair committees and their vice-chairpersons earn an additional honorarium. The ordinary members of the committees also earn sitting allowances depending on how many times they attend committee meetings.

The constituency allowance is supposed to help MPs establish and run an office in their constituency, as well as meet other expenses the electorate may bring to their attention. The job of MP is pensionable, hence there is a gratuity allowance. Town run allowance is given to allow MPs get by when they are in Kampala for legislative duties.

Subsistence allowance is the equivalent of a living allowance some other public servants receive. The mileage allowance is meant to facilitate MPs travel back to their constituency twice every month and also allows for 500km movement within the constituency.

A typical legislator’s payslip will show a basic salary of sh2.6m, which is taxed to a net pay of sh1.75m. On top of that comes a subsistence allowance of sh4.5m, a mileage allowance of sh3.6m, the constituency allowance of sh3.2m, gratuity of sh780,000, which is also taxed, and a town run allowance of sh850,000.

The sh3.6m mileage allowance stated here is an average, considering that Parliament pays a total sh1.2b for this allowance monthly.

Ugandan MPs justify pay rises by arguing that they are the lowest paid in the region. However, this is not the case.

They earn slightly less than their Kenyan counterparts who, according to the UK Guardian, earn £5,500 - an equivalent of sh16.5m.

But they earn more than their Tanzanian, Rwandan and Burundian counterparts. A Tanzanian MP earns Tzsh7m in salary and allowances, or sh10.5m a month.

Compared to income levels in their countries, Ugandan MPs earn the most. A Ugandan MP earns 14 times the country’s per capita income of $504. In comparison, Kenyan and Tanzanian MP earn 11 times their country’s per capita income of $770 and $430 respectively. Uganda, with 31 million people, also has the highest number of MPs of the three countries (332) despite the fact that it has the lowest population. Kenya, with a population of 39 million, has 210 MPs while Tanzania, with a population of almost 44 million, has 295 MPs.

What do MPs get paid for?
Parliament makes the laws of the country and checks the other arms of Government, especially the executive. It considers and adopts reports from overseeing statutory bodies like the Uganda Human Rights Commission and the Inspectorate General of Government. In its legislative role, parliament work is measured by the number and quality of bills passed, motions passed, reports written by its different committees and adopted by the rest of Parliament and other general indicators like field visits and public hearings.

Is Parliament worth the bill?
Just as they determine their own pay, parliamentarians also set their own performance targets. At the beginning of the financial year, Parliament states how many bills it intends to pass, how many reports it will issue and how many motions will be passed.

Its committees state the number of meetings they will hold, reports to be completed, public hearings and field visits to be conducted. The Ministry of Finance approves the House’s budget with these targets in mind.

However, going by its own targets, Parliament is not performing to expectations. It is supposed to pass an average of 31 bills, 34 motions and 19 reports per year.

However, in the last two financial years, it passed just over half of the target number of bills and issued less than half of the reports. The parliamentary committees, too, did not reach their targets. They were supposed to issue 25 reports per year. However, last financial year, they only issued seven reports.

As for special committees, such as the CHOGM probe, only half of the 33 required reports were produced last financial year. However, MPs surpass their targets in committee meetings and field visits where they can earn allowances based on attendance.

Parliament’s spokesperson Kaweesa argues that poor performance is not entirely the MPs’ fault. “The bills come from the Government. MPs can only pass them when they are brought before Parliament. If the relevant ministries submit their bills late, then Parliament cannot pass them early.”

Other factors that affect MPs performance, according to Kaweesa, are Government interference, the level to which other stakeholders must be consulted and internal disagreements. “For the Land Amendment Bill, for example, a lot more consultation needs to be done. The committee of inquiry into the Police conduct has not produced its report because the committee members disagreed,” said Kaweesa. Sometimes the Government slows down MPs’ work, she added. “MP Okupa said the NRM chief whip interfered with his work on the inquiry into local government expenditure. The committee has, therefore, not produced its report.”

Whatever the reasons, the fact is that Parliament does not meet its own targets. Yet, payment of its members is increasing every year.

Should tax payers continue to foot the bill even when performance is unsatisfactory? And should MPs be allowed to set their own pay? Who oversees the overseer?

Do MPs deserve sh15m per month?

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