SIRâ€” The New Vision of December 21 reported that the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mrs Hope Mwesigye, had proposed that â€œMPs should be given money for developing their constituenciesâ€.
This is a great idea. We definitely need development at the grassroots, the constituencies. The challenge falls squarely on the Government to help the people at the grassroots fight poverty so as to avoid the Minister of State for Agriculture, Dr Kibirige Ssebunya, arresting them and imprisoning them for being poor.
Critical questions now arise: Who should be given the money? Of course, NOT the MPs. Can you trust the MPs with this money?
What have they done with the sh150,000 Constituent Allowance they get every month, amounting to sh1.8m a year? The good answer is: MPs have never accounted for whatever was money was given to them, simply because they donâ€™t properly use it for development.
To succeed in this brilliant initiative, we should avoid:
1. Doing it the Amin way. In 1972, Idi Amin launched an economic war against Ugandan business Asians, simply out-of-a dream: without any prior studies to guide him how to go about it. So, the war failed, economically.
2. Handling it the Entandikwa way. In 1992, like Amin, President Yoweri Museveni poured a lot of Entandikwa money into the streets, without any studies done to determine who should qualify for it and for what purpose! People who picked the funds, treating them as payment for the votes they had given the President, quietly â€˜ateâ€™ the money. See how this Entandikwa project squandered the poor taxpayersâ€™ resources!
3. Handling it the NSSF Way: Where a high profile board of directors, in charge of the Poor Workersâ€™ Money, came up with a bogus Nsimbe Project which only helped them to â€˜eatâ€™ the money under their care. Although aware that they had no written feasibility study done, to justify their work plan, the board was crudely determined to go ahead with the selfishly highly-priced project. Good that they were stopped fairly early.
Here is how I would propose to handle the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
The best way to handle the Hope Mwesigye proposal is be done as follows:
First of all, specifically open a CDF account in the Governmentâ€™s Consolidated Account. Put the account under the responsibility and supervision of the National Development Authority (NDA) which has replaced UDC. And oblige the Auditor General (AG) to audit the account every year and then submit the Report to Parliament â€” without fail â€” this being a public fund. This is the only way Parliament can sow the seeds for grassroots development. All poverty eradication funds given by donors should be banked on this account, to subject them to proper utilisation and accountability.
Secondly, then the MP will get challenged to run around his or her constituency to call his or her people to sit down together to discuss and agree on what needs to be done to develop their area. The constituency development plan to be drawn should be based on community benefits â€” no individuality.
Then the MP looks for a consultant to study the proposal and write up its feasibility. On receiving the feasibility writeâ€“up, the MP should take it to the National Development Authority which should seriously study the write-up, to approve or to disapprove the viability of the project.
Thirdly, after approving the write-up, the NDA should be free to authorise the release of the funds required for implementing the project. The money should only be released to the people doing the work, and NOT the MP. The NDA and the Auditor General should jointly (if necessary) appoint a commission to monitor and supervise the work.
I urge this idea to start it with the coming 2005/2006 Budget, the preparation of which is now in progress. Our poverty is a man-made and preventable disease which simply needs a well-planned to cure.