The speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga has defended a move by members of parliament to increase their own pay. Kadaga says that there is no illegality since the process is done in conformity with all provisions of the Constitution.
Last month, the Supreme court ruled that MPs cannot unilaterally increase their remuneration without the involvement of the executive.
The judgment sustained a 2016 Constitutional court decision that declared Section 5 of the Parliament Remuneration of Members Act Cap 259, unconstitutional. The judgment was under Constitutional Appeal No. 8 of 2016, Parliamentary Commission versus Wilson Tumwesigye.
The judges led by chief justice Bart Katureebe, ruled that if the section is maintained, it was bound to be used by parliament to violate the Constitution. The judges said that parliament can only increase MPs pay through a bill or motion presented by the executive which is constitutionally the financial authority in charge of revenues and expenditure.
The other judges that constituted the panel included Faith Mwondha, Paul Mugambe, Stella Arach-Amoko, Rubby Opio-Aweri, Jotham Tumwesige, and Augustine Nshimye. The justices said that Section 5 and Article 85 of the Constitution, that empowers parliament to determine emoluments, should be read together with Article 93 of the Constitution, which bars MPs from enacting a bill that imposes a charge on the Consolidated Fund.
The Supreme court found no merit in the Parliamentary Commission's appeal and dismissed it awarding the costs of the appeal to Tumwesigye, who, initially in 2011, petitioned the Constitutional court challenging the decision of the Parliamentary Commission to increase MPs' pay basing solely on Section 5 of the Parliament Remuneration of Members Act and Article 85 of the Constitution.
During the plenary session held on Tuesday, Kadaga said that the issue before court was whether the procedure of determining members’ emoluments under Section 5 of the Parliament Remuneration of Members Act was in conformity with Article 93 of the Constitution.
“I would like to inform the House that court recognized and reiterated the mandate of parliament to determine the emoluments of MPs as prescribed under Article 85 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda but that this must be done in harmony with Article 93 of the Constitution,” Kadaga said in part.
She argued that fares for MPs have always been determined in line with the constitutional provisions and that there is no illegality.
"Hon members, I just want to put on record that this parliament has only used that procedure of Section 5 only once to determine emoluments. That was on 30th October 2001 - the 7th parliament. We’re now in the 10th parliament. Since then, members' fares have been determined in harmony with all the provisions of the Constitution. I, therefore, want to assure you Hon members and the public at large, that parliament has the right and continues to determine emoluments of parliament in conformity with all the provisions of the Constitution, so there is no illegality."
President Yoweri Museveni early this year proposed a need for constitutional amendment to scrap parliament’s mandate of determining its own salaries.
During a meeting with members of the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU), Museveni acknowledged the lack of equality in salaries with some public servants getting much more than others.
He cited parliament where legislators fix their own salaries describing the situation as a structural problem promising to push for a ‘One Salary Board’ to fix government salaries. The president then cited a need for the Constitution to be amended to have the board in place.