Kadaga justifies Shs 10bn allocated to MPs to fight COVID-19

The speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga has justified the allocation of Shs 10 billion to MPs to carry out 'supervision and advocacy' against the spread of coronavirus.

Parliament has come under heavy criticism after the MPs this week quietly allocated themselves Shs 10 billion, even cutting the health budget by Shs 5 billion to come up with the figure.

Kadaga explained that MPs are 'busy on advocacy' and are following up on what is happening in hospitals around the country. However, this is the exact work that MPs are paid handsomely to do.

Commentators wonder why the MPs needed extra money. There are 452 MPs in Uganda’s parliament, and breakdown of the money means each MP gets at least Shs 22,123,893 (Shs 22 million).

President Yoweri Museveni has appealed to the private sector to contribute monetary and non-monetary donations including vehicles and food. As of Tuesday, at least Shs 4 billion had been contributed and a total of 31 vehicles to be used by the health sector.

Ugandans across the country have asked for relief food during the lockdown, but the president said the government doesn't have enough financial resources to cater for everyone. 

Kadaga said the allocated money will also be used to maintain and service MPs’ ambulances surrendered to the ministry of Health to help with the evacuation of patients. She also said the drivers of those ambulances ought to be paid salaries while they are at work.

It is not clear how many MPs surrendered their ambulances but several MPs own ambulances that they use for emergencies in their constituencies. Yet, if the ministry of Health was allocated enough funds to purchase its own ambulances, there would be no need for the MPs to purchase the ambulances themselves that go for no less than Shs 70 million.

Many foreigners are left in bewilderment when they learn that Ugandan MPs own individual ambulances, a responsibility that they should be holding government for. 

Kadaga said MPs are 'looking into' constituents' needs by providing food, water tanks among others. While appearing on Capital Radio last week, Kira Municipality MP Ssemujju Nganda said his home is thronged every day by locals asking for food, money for healthcare or an ambulance for transport to the hospitals.  

Kenyan MPs similarly also came under criticism when they refused to take pay cuts even when the presidency, speakers and judiciary undertook voluntary cuts to contribute towards COVID-19 fight in their country.

Lawmakers in Nigeria agreed to forgo their salaries as contributions towards the COVID-19 fight while in Malawi, President Peter Mutharika also announced taking a 10% salary cut along with his ministers.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd