PRESS STATEMENT: Tuesday 20th October 2015, 9:00am
The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995) as amended, under article 77, establishes the institution of Parliament as an independent arm of government. This independence has however often come under scrutiny, due to external influences especially from the Executive.
Cases abound of the Executive interfering with Parliament’s work, including suspicious payments to Members of Parliament (MPs), ostensibly as ‘special sitting allowances’. Already, in the last two months, MPs have allegedly received up to 15 million shillings each, from the Office of the President through the government Chief Whip.
On 30th September 2015, while passing the Presidential Elections Amendment Bill (2015) and Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill (2015), MPs were allegedly paid 5 million shillings each as a ‘special sitting allowance’. Earlier, on 4th September 2015, when MPs were re-called to consider a government motion creating new districts, each MP allegedly received 10 million shillings in allowances.
Much as MPs have justified these payments, as ‘disturbance allowances’ during their recess, we strongly believe that they have a moral responsibility to represent Ugandans. We therefore condemn MPs for receiving this money. More so, there is no law or policy that provides for ‘disturbance allowance’.
The Administration of Parliament Act Cap 257 Section 6 clearly stipulates that it is the responsibility of the Parliamentary Commission to determine allowances payable and privileges available to all MPs. Section 20 mandates the Parliamentary Commission to pay administrative and operational expenses of Parliament, including all salaries, allowances, gratuities and pensions payable to MPs, directly from the Consolidated Fund.
It is therefore not just illegal and patronising for the Office of the President to pay MPs illegitimate allowances, but also contravenes Article 85 (2) of the 1995 Constitution. We denounce the misuse of tax payers’ money which could otherwise be used to provide vital services to Ugandans.
The monies so far spent on illegitimate allowances for MPs can be used to increase teacher’s salaries, improve infrastructures at schools, buy essential medicines for health centres or even construct new health centres.
The timing of these payments is also suspicious, especially now that the country is preparing for general elections in 2016; this could be election funding disguised as allowances. This not only gives unfair advantage to incumbent MPs, but also contributes to commercialisation of politics in this country.
The fact that these allowances are coming from the Executive also puts the independence of Parliament at question. What interests does the Office of the President have in paying MPs? This kind of undue influence serves not only to weaken the institution of Parliament, but also to circumvent the principle of separation of power.
These illegal payments also cast a shadow on the nature of MPs we have in Uganda currently. From increasing their salaries, to unnecessary financial demands, the typical Ugandan MP has proven to be self-centered. MPs ought to know that they are elected to serve Ugandans, not just fulfilling their own selfish ends.
Call to action
We call upon the Executive to respect the independence of Parliament. Any payment to MPs should follow the right procedure – through the Parliamentary Commission.