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MPs’ pay held to fund age limit consultations

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In order to raise the Shs 29 million for each MP to go and consult constituents on the age limit removal bill, parliament has cancelled foreign travel bookings for its staff and parliamentarians.

A number of MPs and staff had been scheduled to travel this weekend to attend conferences in Senegal and South Africa but owing to the realignment of the legislature’s financial priorities, they have been told parliament will not foot their travel bill until the third quarter (April to June 2018).

“Travel abroad is not going to happen because the funds were exhausted. We expect the next release [of funds] in the third quarter of the financial year,” the director of Communications and Public Affairs, Chris Obore, said yesterday.

The MPs, therefore, have to either miss their trips or spend out of their pockets and wait for the third quarter for reimbursements.

“They have told us to use our money; that they will pay in future,” Kooki MP Boaz Kasirabo told The Observer.
Kasirabo was part of a team travelling to South Africa.

The Kooki MP together with his Nakaseke South counterpart Paulson Luttamaguzi Ssemakula indicated on Thursday they would fund their trips in the hope of getting a refund in future.

For each day out of the country, an MP is entitled to an allowance of $720 (Shs 2.56 million), $200 more than what they used to get in the previous financial year.

This increase, according to some sources at parliament, is the official reason being given for the suspension of the foreign travels because it had not been budgeted for.

Other sources, however, pointed to the need to cover for more than Shs 12.6 billion that has been diverted to facilitate the age limit consultations.

The reallocation was reportedly allowed last week by Finance minister Matia Kasaija after NRM MPs told President Museveni that they did not have money to facilitate their consultations on the Raphael Magyezi bill. The bill is currently before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.

Also last week, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Winfred Kiiza (Kasese Woman), during a press conference, questioned the source of the money since the Parliamentary Commission on which she sits had never met to approve the age limit consultation budget.

“The government chief whip [Ruth Nankabirwa] is not a member of the Parliamentary Commission; how did she know that the commission was going to [allocate] that money to the MPs?” Kiiza wondered.

CASH-STRAPPED

Ruling party MPs were promised after last week’s NRM caucus meeting that the money would be wired to their accounts this week but by press time, the payments had not been effected.

Meanwhile, it is also understood that parliament has not paid MPs and staff their full monthly emoluments. MPs get a monthly net salary of Shs 6.1 million plus allowances ranging between Shs 30 million to Shs 40 million, depending on the distance between parliament and their constituencies.

This money is usually posted to their accounts in the first week of a new month but this time round, parliament has only disbursed the Shs 6.1 million salary.

“All staff and MPs have not yet got allowances. It is to do with financial flow but it will be settled; this not the first time it has happened,” Obore said.

This financial situation has also made it difficult for parliament to clear a debt of about Shs 3 billion owed to various travel bureaux, according to insider sources. Parliament works with about 10 travel bureaux to fix flights for its staff and MPs.

Obore did not respond when asked about the debts. The ministry of Finance yesterday said it had given Parliament up to 50 percent of its approved 2017/18 budget.

“All funds have been accessed by parliament; we availed money as per the approved budget,” ministry of Finance’s spokesman Jim Mugunga said.

Mugunga denied reports that the ministry had allowed parliament to reallocate money from some of its budget items to finance the budget for the age limit consultation.

“We haven’t given them any money for the age limit and we haven’t told them to divert any money; we released the money as per their budget and it is up to the accounting officer [Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige] to make re-allocations but after following due process,” Mugunga said.

THE OBSERVER

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