MPs, currently among the best paid individuals in the country, have appealed to the president to rescue them from their choking loans.
By Mary Karugaba
Members of Parliament, who are currently among the best paid individuals in the country, have appealed to President Yoweri Museveni to rescue them from their choking loans.
The MPs, who risk imprisonment or losing their properties to money-lenders and banks, reportedly petitioned Museveni at the NRM Caucus meeting at State House Entebbe early this week.
MPs earn close to sh20m but the debts have wiped out their earnings, with some of them going home penniless at the end of the month.
The MPs, led by an MP from Buganda region and a senior parliamentary commissioner, reportedly told the President that they were broke and want money to bail them out.
To show how serious the matter is, an MP from Busoga region, who led the opening prayer, reportedly included the issue in the prayer.
According to sources, the MP said: “Dear God, the teachers need money and we, MPs, also need money.”
The issue was not part of the agenda. The MPs had gone to meet the President to discuss the state of unpaid salaries for civil servants and teachers’ demands for a payrise.
David Bahati, the vice-chairman of the NRM caucus, however, denied reports of MPs pleading for a bail out. He said the members only raised the issue of high interest charges by money lenders affecting Ugandans.
But reports said to justify their appeal, the MPs reportedly told the President that it had become very expensive to be an MP and run a constituency.
During the meeting, the President reportedly wondered how the MPs wanted to be bailed out.
He also reportedly tried to educate members on prioritizing for the nation and themselves.
“The debate came up after the President educated us on the need to start investing in areas that generate more income,” a source said.
Museveni reportedly told the MPs to use the laws to buffer themselves from the high interest rates which sometimes go beyond 25% per month.
The Buganda MP reportedly told the President that he had a formula and requested for a meeting with him.
But when the MP was contacted, he replied: “I don’t know what they are talking about.”
The parliamentary commissioner reportedly told the meeting that earlier, there were efforts to bail out the MPs through a loan request from China.
The proposal, however, did not take off because the President was against it. When the issue became contentious, the President reportedly promised members that he will look into their request.
Efforts to reach the commissioner failed as his phone was off.
An investigation by New Vision’s sister paper The Kampala Sun, revealed that a number of MPs were trapped in a cycle of debts, with some members earning less than sh100,000 per month. Most of their salaries are committed to servicing debts from loan sharks and banks. About 30 MPs reportedly take nothing home.
Another investigation by Sunday Vision showed MPs owe money lenders over sh20b.
At the beginning of this Parliament’s term, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga cautioned MPs against acquiring the tempting loans.
Some MPs are reportedly evading creditors and bailiffs by arriving early at parliament and leaving very late. The legislators are also said to be dodging their constituents who go to visit them at Parliament.
Simon Peter Aleper, the Moroto Municipality MP, was recently dragged to court by Felix Okot Ogong, a fellow Member of Parliament, for failure to pay a sh70m loan.
Florence Kintu, the Kalungu Woman MP, was dragged to court twice for allegedly failing to pay sh40m she borrowed from an Indian money lending firm.
Kintu also allegedly failed to pay sh10m borrowed from Nimbya Company, a money lending firm based at Kampala Serena Hotel.
Broke NRM MPs cry out to Museveni over debts