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Outrage over huge goverment retirements perks

Auditor General John Muwanga looks on as speaker Anita Among hands over a report to LoP Joel Ssenyonyi

Auditor General John Muwanga looks on as speaker Anita Among hands over a report to LoP Joel Ssenyonyi

As the government gears up to address retirement benefits for key officials, the spotlight falls on the imminent transition of the auditor general.

With the clock ticking towards his retirement this year, a pivotal decision was made last week by the government to advocate for a resolution in parliament to establish the post-retirement benefits of Auditor General John F.S. Muwanga under Section 5(2) of the National Audit Act, 2008.

The proposal passed by parliament on April 10, was tabled on April 9 by Henry Musasizi, the minister of state for Finance, Planning and Economic Development (General Duties) and seconded by Amos Kankunda, chairperson of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

It largely addressed the longstanding issue of defining the retirement benefits of the Auditor General, a crucial position in Uganda’s governance structure.

In a resolution presented to parliament, Musasizi said the Auditor General, as mandated by Article 163(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, is appointed by the president with the approval of parliament. The National Audit Act of 2008 was enacted to facilitate the independent execution of the auditor general’s duties and to give effect to constitutional provisions.

Under the current legal framework, “while Section 5(1) of the National Audit Act stipulates the retirement age for the Auditor General,” retirement benefits, including remuneration and conditions of service, are subject to determination by parliament, as outlined in Section 5(2), he said.

The approved retirement benefits include a monthly retirement benefit equivalent to the salary (Shs 36 million) of an active auditor general, which shall be provided for the duration of their life.

Additionally, the retirement package includes a furnished house or a one-time payment of Shs 400 million, an annual medical allowance equivalent to that of a sitting auditor general, the option for a chauffeur-driven car or a one-time payment of Shs 400 million, provision of security, a monthly fuel and vehicle repair allowance of Shs 2 million, and an official burial upon death.

Following intense debate, parliament approved the retirement benefits of the auditor general, regardless of age or tenure in office. In supporting the motion for the auditor general’s retirement benefits, Minister Henry Musasizi outlined several key reasons.

He noted that competitive retirement benefits are crucial for attracting and retaining talented professionals, which in turn helps maintain continuity and institutional memory by reducing turnover rates. Furthermore, such benefits enhance job satisfaction and performance by providing financial security post-retirement.

Musasizi also argued that adequate benefits ensure the independence of the auditor general by mitigating financial stability concerns and enhance public confidence in the auditing process by demonstrating a commitment to valuing the auditor general’s work.

And on April 10, parliament also approved a Shs 500 million service award for John Muwanga, who has served as the auditor general for 22 years and is expected to retire this year.

Muwanga’s award comes amidst criticism faced by former Leader of the Opposition Mathias Mpuuga, for a similar award. Leaked resolutions from a May 2022 Parliamentary Commission meeting revealed a decision to grant Mpuuga, now the former leader of the opposition, a one-time service award of Shs 500 million. Additionally, three commissioners from the National Resistance Movement (NRM)—Solomon Silwany, Prossy Akampurira, and Esther Afoyochan—were each allocated Shs 400 million.

This service award sparked controversy and led to the suspension of Mathias Mpuuga, the vice president of the National Unity Platform (NUP) for Buganda. He is accused of participating in the meeting and being involved in the allocation of Shs 1.7 billion. Despite his suspension, Mpuuga maintains that the allocation was lawful and intends to remain with the party.

AG Muwanga’s service award was approved after Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, proposed a Shs 1 billion award for the auditor general, citing his significant contributions to the country over more than two decades of service. However, Mafabi’s proposal was rejected by the House, with Erute South legislator Jonathan Odur suggesting that the award should be 2.6 per cent of Muwanga’s annual salary, totalling Shs 500 million.

Initial public reactions

Interviewed for this article, a close watcher of government expenditure who declined to be named to speak freely said, “In the broader context of Uganda’s economic indicators, such as a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expected to reach $48.76 billion by the end of 2024 and an inflation rate of 7.20% in 2022, the sustainability of these benefits must be carefully considered.”

“While they [benefits] can play a role in ensuring the quality and independence of civil service, they must be balanced against the urgent needs of a developing economy and the public’s perception of fairness and equitable resource distribution. Balancing these benefits with the pressing need for economic development and poverty reduction will be crucial for maintaining social cohesion and ensuring long-term stability in Uganda,” he said.

He said in a country where many citizens continue to face poverty and economic hardship, the perception of government officials receiving lavish benefits can lead to public discontent and a perception of inequality, which can exacerbate tensions between the government and the populace.

He noted that, “There is a risk that such generous benefits could create a culture of dependency, where government officials expect high rewards without necessarily delivering commensurate value in terms of service or performance.”

The ongoing public scrutiny and debate over such expenditures highlight a critical balance that needs to be struck—ensuring that public service is attractive and rewarding, while also managing public resources judiciously to foster broader economic and social development.

Other beneficiaries

In parallel, amidst public scrutiny over lavish expenditures, the retirement benefits of other government officials come under scrutiny too. Notably, retired judges emerge with substantial post-service perks, as outlined in the Administration of the Judiciary Act, 2020.

The Act ensures retired chief justices receive monthly salaries akin to serving counterparts, alongside a range of benefits, including housing, medical allowances, and vehicle provisions. Supreme court justices and lower court judges enjoy similar benefits, albeit adjusted to their respective positions.

The Administration of the Judiciary Act, 2020, stipulates that a retired chief justice is entitled to the same monthly salary as a serving chief justice. Additionally, they receive a one-off lump sum retirement benefit equivalent to 2.4 per cent of their annual salary, multiplied by five and the number of years served.

For instance, Chief Justice Alphonse Owinyi-Dollo, who earns Shs 20 million monthly, will be entitled to about Shs 172.8 million upon retirement in 2026, considering his seven years as chief justice. This figure could increase when factoring in his total of 18 years of service since his 2008 appointment.

Retired chief justices have the option of receiving either a furnished house or a one-off payment of twenty thousand currency points, equivalent to Shs 400 million. They are also eligible for an annual medical allowance matching that of a sitting chief justice and a chauffeur-driven car or a one-time payment of ten thousand currency points, roughly Shs 200 million.

State-provided security and two domestic servants, or a monthly payment of Shs 300,000, are additional benefits. Additionally, retired chief justices are allocated a monthly fuel and vehicle repairs allowance of Shs 2 million and a communication package including airtime and internet worth Shs 220,000.

These retirement benefits also extend to the deputy chief justice, who receives similar perks as those afforded to a sitting deputy chief justice. A Supreme court justice receives 80 per cent of the salary awarded to a sitting justice upon retirement. Their perks are akin to those of the chief justice, with variations only in the amounts. These retirement benefits also extend to judges of the Court of Appeal and the High court.

Regarding the vehicle giveaway to former speakers, Anita Annet Among, the speaker, explained that she was adhering to the stipulations of the law. The Parliamentary Pensions Act 2022, originally enacted in 2007 and amended in 2022, includes provisions for former speakers who served between 1980 to 2007, aligning with the law’s initial enactment.

Presidents, Prime Ministers

The Emoluments and Benefits of the President, Vice President, and Prime Minister Act, 2010, specifically outlines the retirement benefits allocated to former heads of state.

These comprehensive benefits include a monthly allowance, which is 60 per cent of the salary of a sitting president, alongside a fully furnished house. Additionally, the retired president receives a one-off payment of Shs 20 million and subsequently, Shs 10 million every five years for furniture replacement. Transport provisions include a chauffeur-driven car, replaced every five years.

The Act also provides for comprehensive medical care for the former president and their immediate family, along with the provision of four government-paid security guards and a senior personal secretary. Utility costs are covered with a monthly allowance of Shs 800,000 for expenses like electricity, telephone and water. Two domestic staff are also provided, and the retired president is entitled to first-class travel for official business.

In the event of the former president’s death, these benefits extend to their spouse(s) and dependent children, with some adjustments. Instead of the Shs 800,000 utility allowance, the family receives Shs 500,000, and in lieu of a house, a lump sum of Shs 400 million is allocated for housing.

Speakers

The Parliamentary Pensions Act, along with its amendments, outlines the retirement benefits for former speakers and deputy speakers. These benefits encompass both monetary and non-monetary elements, such as allowances, vehicles, security provisions, and medical care. Recent actions by Speaker Anita Annet Among, adhering to these parliamentary regulations, have ignited public debate.

This controversy has brought attention to the perceived extravagant spending and highlighted the existing legislation and its broader implications.

“For clarity, the amended Parliamentary Pensions Act now grants former speakers and deputy speakers both monetary and non-monetary benefits as outlined in the 2022 version of the Act. Additionally, the Parliamentary Commission is extending similar benefits, though monetarily, to the spouses and dependents of former speakers and deputy speakers who have either passed away in office or retired. The living retired speakers and deputy speakers are already receiving monetary benefits from the Parliamentary Commission. What was lacking, now provided by the Commission, is a four-wheel chauffeur-driven car,” Speaker Among stated.

She explained that these vehicles will remain under government ownership, with the Parliamentary Commission responsible for their upkeep and for compensating the drivers, who will be listed as Commission employees. The vehicles are set to be replaced every five years, following the government’s transport policy.

This implementation of the 2007 law sparked controversy, possibly due to the novel public presentation of these vehicles, which many have criticized as unnecessary spending. According to the law, a retired speaker is entitled to a monthly allowance equal to 60 per cent of a sitting speaker’s salary, a chauffeur-driven four-wheel car of 3500 to 4000 cubic capacity (replaced every five years), two security guards, two domestic staff, and medical care for themselves and their spouse(s), along with a Shs 660,000 utility allowance.

The deputy speaker receives similar benefits. It’s noteworthy that not only former speakers receive substantial retirement packages. The benefits for speakers and their deputies are modest compared to those for the president, vice president, prime minister, chief justice, deputy chief justice, and judges of the Supreme, Constitutional, and High courts.

In essence, the confluence of legislative frameworks governing retirement benefits for key governmental figures underscores the intricacies of public service transitions and the broader discourse surrounding fiscal responsibility and accountability. As Uganda navigates these dynamics, public discourse shapes the trajectory of governance and institutional integrity.

Reaction to benefits

Interviewed for this story, Peter Walubiri, a senior counsel and political analyst, criticized the current state of leadership in Uganda. He commented on the excessive privileges enjoyed by those in political and public administration roles, stating, “Leaders have not only exceeded their boundaries with high earnings and substantial pensions but their indifference towards the hardships faced by ordinary Ugandans is pushing public discontent to a brink where people might seek justice on their own.”

Walubiri argued that there is absolutely no justification for public officers, who earn up to thirty times more than their subordinates like drivers, secretaries, and clerks—all of whom face the same cost of living—to receive additional perks such as service awards or discretionary funds. He labeled such practices as theft and a misuse of taxpayers’ money, which should instead be redirected towards improving public services and increasing the salaries of lower-paid public workers.

“We are dealing with a class devoid of conscience and shame, unworthy of public office. These individuals are, with all due respect, nothing more than glorified thugs. They are no better than robbers, pilfering from the public coffers. They are, to put it mildly, a disgrace,” he concluded.

Godber Tumushabe, a lawyer and policy analyst, criticized the practice of granting service awards and continuing monthly salaries for retired civil servants as a perpetuation of institutionalized corruption and patronage.

“Corruption is embedded in President Yoweri Museveni’s regime. Institutionalized corruption serves as a way for the president to ensure mutual back-scratching with civil servants,” he stated.

Tumushabe highlighted the contrast between the government’s lavish spending on awards and its failure in essential areas: “It’s absurd that a regime that cannot provide quality education, a functioning healthcare system, or even ambulances for health centers indulges in such excessive award packages.”

Bernard Oundo, president of the Uganda Law Society, pointed out public concerns over the morality and legality of these service award emoluments given the high levels of public fund misappropriation, significant pay disparities, and potential conflicts of interest among government officials deciding on their own emoluments.

He further explained the legal framework: “According to Article 93 of the Constitution, any introduction or increase of emoluments must be proposed through a bill or motion in parliament by the government. This allows parliament to evaluate and decide on these emoluments.”
Oundo concluded, “The fact that no such bill or motion was presented regarding the controversial service award emoluments suggests that they may constitute an illegal charge on the Consolidated Fund of Uganda, warranting thorough investigation.”

He proposed that to address the ongoing issues of payment disparities and conflicts of interest in setting the emoluments for members of parliament, an independent Salaries and Remuneration Commission should be established. This commission would be responsible for determining the salaries of all government employees and officials, including MPs, offering a comprehensive and permanent solution.

He urged the government and all public officials to commit to the principles of accountability, transparency, and strict adherence to the rule of law in all matters concerning the management of public funds and the compensation of public officials. This commitment is essential for building and sustaining public trust and ensuring the responsible use of taxpayer money.

A political appointee, who requested anonymity, criticized the practice of granting service awards to those who already receive pensions, telling The Observer, “Service awards are not the way to go. It’s inappropriate to reward individuals who are already entitled to pensions; eventually, everyone will want such awards.”

“They started with Mpuuga and other commissioners; next, you might hear that those who received the service awards ended up awarding themselves, which involves large sums of money that could be better spent on public services like fixing potholes, building classrooms for UPE schools, or extending health services to underserved areas of Uganda,” he added.

geofreyserugo1992@gmail.com

Comments

+1 #1 Uhuru 2024-04-17 07:58
The solution to this mess is simple. Increase the retirement age for an auditor gemeral to 80 years.

This will help ensure that there are not many auditor generals on a retirement package at any one moment.

It will also ensure that an auditor general on a retirement package does not get the package for a very long as death from old age would be just around the corner.
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+2 #2 Parliament_Bbaagiro 2024-04-17 12:07
Thanks be to the 11 Parliament a den of the greedy, Managers of the slaughter house for the poor tax payers money!

Voters we are stupid we must not return those any old MP in 2026. we can do it I know we can do it Voters can change the parliament and the country. Package is not bad be be fair when debating in reality.
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0 #3 Akot 2024-04-17 14:04
There is no need for Ugandans to have the useless parliament, in the Uganda owned by Rwandese Museveni since 1986!

Why will 40 years of Museveni not be long enough & Ugandans wait for 2626 fake elections, to ensure he continues & protected constitutionally, knowing NOTHING will change for VOTERS, THE PEOPLE?

Why have Ugandans not yet understood that it's them, THE PEOPLE, who MUST say NO to the tribalistic system & UNITE, to end Museveni's ownership of their land & tax money & have chance to a different Uganda, without Rwandese Museveni?

Why ensure Uganda belongs to Rwandese Museveni consititutionally with fake elections?

Have mps assured their constituents are developed with, well built schools, healthcare, good roads/houses with electricity & clean running water...& voters live well?
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0 #4 Akot 2024-04-17 14:11
Quoting Parliament_Bbaagiro:


Parliament a den of the greedy, Managers of the slaughter house for the poor tax payers money!

Voters we are stupid we must not return those any old MP in 2026. we can do it I know we can do it Voters can change the parliament and the country.


Thanks.

NO vote in the Uganda that is Museveni's family business will change anything for Ugandans, but;

NO to the tribalistic system & UNITY will block & show Museveni way out, then & only then, will Ugandans be able to put in place the kind of governance they want!

So, why is everything build around & for Museveni?

Why are Ugandans ensuring they are slaves of the migrant they gave shelter to & would a Ugandan own Rwanda & be accepted as lifetime ruler, owner of tax money?
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0 #5 Marz Mubiru 2024-04-18 02:43
I have better. Let the Auditor--General serve until he/she is too weak to wake up to go to work.

These greedy cats pass all these stupid laws knowing that when their time comes in future they will get those benefits.

They do not care at all. There is no money for doctors, teachers, killing poor citizens with taxes etc but when it comes to them, there is plenty of cash to distribute.
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0 #6 Lakwena 2024-04-18 08:18
At this rate,who wants to pay taxes? And what is a parasite and diseases vector?

In other words, who wants to pay taxes under a regime of self-serving parasites, by parasites and for parasites?

NYET!
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0 #7 Lakwena 2024-04-22 08:03
Quoting Marz Mubiru:
I have better. Let the Auditor--General serve until he/she is too weak to wake up to go to work.

These greedy cats pass all these stupid laws knowing that when their time comes in future they will get those benefits.

They do not care at all. There is no money for doctors, teachers, killing poor citizens with taxes etc but when it comes to them, there is plenty of cash to distribute.


In other words Marz Mubiru, the "Laws of wrongdoers, by wrongdoers and for wrongdoers".

E.g. even himself, nobody has denied that "Our Problem of Africa" and cabal came to power thru wrongdoing. And for 38 years and counting stranglehold onto to power thru wrongdoing.

In order to continue their wrongdoing, they amended their wrongdoing constitution and removed the "Term and Age Limit" in order to legally continue with their wrongdoing at the expense of the whole country.
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0 #8 Lakwena 2024-04-22 08:28
And what is annoying about our wrongdoers is that: they want our respect and/or salutation with menace.

Although they are dirty, smelly, belch and fart loudly like an elephant, but they want to hear our praise and cheers, about how important they are.

When we complain about their hedonism, they point their crooked ugly fingers at us, and scream like a locomotive that they do want to hear our "nonsense".

E.g. they paint heir lips bloody red so that we don't fail toy recognize them. They drive and/or are driven in monstrous and humongous vehicles with numberless escort escorts so that they are visible and audible to whoever wants to ignore their presence and self-importance.

And because of their indifference and cruelty to the taxpayers, one would wish, they are the ones, Concrete Mixer-trucks to rollover them at a Stoplight, instead of a hassling lawyer, eking a living thru trying to rescue victims of injustice inflicted by the wrongdoers. .
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