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Your mail: MPs should not determine their pay

It has emerged that MPs are mooting a plan to more than double their basic pay from Shs 11 million to Shs 24 million.

The planned increment exemplifies the highest degree of greed, myopia and insatiability of our legislators. What is even more shocking is the fact that government is already facing a huge budget shortfall of over Shs 9 trillion.

Ironically, other public servants who have dared to ask for salary increment, like doctors, have been branded unpatriotic.

President Museveni, during this year’s Labour day celebrations in Sembabule district, referred to striking doctors as “unpatriotic” and “enemies of the state”. If doctors demanding Shs 5 million basic pay are “enemies of the state”, I wonder what MPs are.

MPs are amongst the highest-paid public servants, bagging a monthly consolidated pay averaging Shs 25 million, on top of other privileges including a car allowance and a gratuity/pension scheme. With this proposal, their monthly pay could increase to Shs 35 million.

With 451 legislators, an additional Shs 90 billion would be required to meet this superfluous demand. The Ugandan taxpayer is already paying through the nose to sustain an obscenely huge parliament. Already, proposals to tax saving and cooperative schemes, social media and the one per cent tax on mobile money transactions have drawn mixed reactions from the public.

The argument from parliament that MPs are comparatively underpaid is unrealistic, given our level of GDP. On several occasions, parliament has had to adjourn due to lack of quorum. Surely, are we getting value for money from parliament?

Should MPs be determining their pay? Isn’t this clear conflict of interest? What happened to plans of establishing an independent Salaries and Remunerations Commission? MPs, in their selfish minds, of course, cannot allow this to happen; or if it were to happen, they would definitely excuse themselves from this arrangement.

Our country’s resources ought to be directed at improving service delivery in key sectors such as education and health that require urgent attention as compared to MPs’ unending demands.
(Editor’s note: Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has denied that there is such a plan to increase the MPs’ salary)

Cissy N. Kagaba,
Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda.

Umeme should stop disconnecting health facilities

On various occasions, Umeme has disconnected a number of health centers over unpaid electricity bills. Hospitals in Ntungamo, Tororo, Kiboga and Masaka, among others, have had their electricity disconnected over unpaid bills.

This random and unpatriotic behavior by Umeme has, in many cases, cost the lives of innocent people. Many of these hospitals have small budgets allocated to payment of bills like electricity and water.

Whereas government entities should pay for such services, key public facilities like hospitals and health centers should not be disconnected.

Imagine; what happens when power is cut off while patients are on oxygen, in intensive care unit and women in caesarean section?

There are a number of facilities like State House that are rarely disconnected; such treatment should be extended to health centers. Government should also always clear the bills before they accumulate.

Government should further implement the Maputo declaration and increase the health sector budget to 15 per cent of the national budget and reduce maternal mortality rate to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Dan Denis Agaba,
AFIEGO.

Turn Nalufenya into tourist destination

World over, many notorious prisons have been turned into tourist endpoints. These include: Robben Island in South Africa, Devil’s Island in Guyana, and Ghana’s Elmina castle, among others.

For sure, none of us likes going to jail but world over out of curiosity, tourists are attracted to former torture chambers like Nalufenya to test what it looks like if one had the misfortune of being incarcerated in such spaces.

Also, tourists want to find out how heartless some people can be when dealing with fellow humans for the sake of retaining power.

To just revert Nalufenya to a normal police station is less beneficial than turning it into a tourist attraction especially at this time when Uganda is losing a lot of its natural beautiful attractions to reckless wanton environmental degradation.

Turning Nalufenya into a tourist destination could also act as a deterrent to future dictators who would wish to establish such torture chambers.   

Kennedy Kabonge,
kennedykabongek@yahoo.co.uk.

Investigate civil servants’ absenteeism from work

I appreciate government efforts to reduce absenteeism in public health and educational institutions through monitoring arrival and departure of staff using recently acquired biometric machines.

However, I believe government would have done better by improving these public servants’ work conditions.

There is need to explore why these people absent themselves from duty. I have got an opportunity to monitor service delivery at different government-aided schools and health facilities.

The situation there is so alarming. There are limited, and in some cases no, staff quarters. Some staff trek from their homes, feed poorly at work, earn very meager salary, overwhelming number of patients for health workers, and many pupils studying on empty stomachs, with no proper infrastructure to enjoy teaching and studying.

These and many more challenges force public servants to look for other ways of survival like riding boda bodas.

How I wish the money the British government used to purchase the biometric machines was used to improve staff welfare.

Now that the system is being installed, government should think about improving public servants’ welfare if absenteeism is to reduce tremendously.  
   
Lilian Zawedde Senteza,
Transparency International Uganda.

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