A pleasant financial welcome awaits the freshly elected and re-elected members of parliament in an envelope containing nearly $100,000 which they don't even need to account for.
The minister of Finance Matia Kasaija is hunting for at least Shs 165bn to avail parliament to give each MP as motor vehicle allowance. Divided by the 514 MPs, each will be pocketing at least Shs 321 million since there are no implementation costs for the 'programme'.
The item of 'Cars for new MPs' is captured in the budget framework paper for the 2021/2022 financial year as one of the critical but unfunded priorities. The other unfunded priority in the next budget is compensation for cattle in Acholi, Lango and Teso.
Kasaija is determined to put a smile on the faces of fellow MPs who have been battered during the gruelesome scientific campaign trail. Kasaija told URN last night that even if the Shs 165 billion expenditure for cars is not yet funded, the money will have to be eventually availed because the MPs need transport, especially the first termers.
According to the budget framework paper for the 2021/2022 financial year, there are budgetary pressures that government is facing totalling to Shs 5.99 trillion. However, after review of the pressures, government says the critical funding areas will require Shs 3.19 trillion next financial year.
Among the most critical pressures is the classified equipment project under ministry of defence requiring Shs 1.026 trillion which has been fully provided under the proposed allocations, Uganda National Oil Company Capitalization (UNOC) requiring Shs 539.9bn of which Shs 100.6bn has been indicated under the proposed allocations and salaries, pensions and gratuity requiring Shs 492.4bn of which Shs 170.1bn has been proposed under the budget estimates.
The critical areas which remain fully unfunded under the proposed allocations are; the recurring supplementary from the current financial year - requiring Shs 388.6bn, compensation for lost cattle in Acholi, Lango and Teso requiring Shs 200bn, counterpart funding for the Uganda Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfers Program requiring Shs 381.5bn and vehicles for new members of parliament requiring Shs 165bn.
In the outgoing 10th parliament, government spent nearly Shs 110bn on motor vehicle funds awarded to MPs. The money was released in two instalments with MPs getting Shs 100m each in October 2016 following a release of Shs 64.5bn, MPs got an additional Shs 100m each following release of Shs 45.8billion in June 2017.
The 11th parliament is set to see the amount spent on the MPs' car allowance rise by Shs 55bn to Shs 165bn owing to an increase in the number of MPs from 448 to 514. This translates into a cash-out of Shs 321m per MP.
There are no costs involved in this implementing the MPs' car 'programme' as the money is simply wired to MPs to spend as each chooses.
When the (new) MPs are undergoing orientation, car dealers usually swamp the premises offering 'bargain' deals to the members, but there are no conditions, standards or guidelines for the MPs to follow and one can even choose not to buy a car. Some in the 9th and 10th parliament used the money to buy ambulances for their constituencies.
The budget framework paper says that the priorities that have not been covered or partially covered will be funded through tax policy and administrative measures that are still under review and the process is expected to be complete by the end of January 2021.
When asked how much each MP will be entitled to and whether it was indeed Shs 321m, Kasaija said that that figure will have to be determined by the Parliamentary Commission on which he himself sits.
President Yoweri Museveni, during his victory speech after he was announced the winner of the 2021 presidential elections by the Electoral Commission, warned MPs against extravagance and wasteful expenditure of MPs, saying he will not allow them to increase their allowances and emoluments as they please.