There is much anger in Uganda over a plan by the government to pay members of parliament (MPs) up to Sh150m each to buy new vehicles.
By October, New Vision reports, each of the 427 MPs would pocket the cash to buy luxury vehicles to travel to their constituencies, a venture that would cost the taxpayer a minimum of Sh64bn.
Making the announcement, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said on Tuesday that the amount would enable legislators to conduct the business of serving their constituents more efficiently.
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija last week reportedly told the parliamentary finance committee that they had delayed releasing money to the MPs because they had financial constraints.
Meanwhile, according to Daily Monitor, the issue of the car grant had put parliament at loggerheads with the executive after it emerged that the ministry of finance had excluded the Sh64bn for the MPs’ vehicles in the 2015/16 budget on grounds that the parliamentary commission had “overshot” its budget ceiling.
The finance ministry had also proposed that MPs get the Sh150m car grant in shifts, with priority given to newly elected MPs, a proposal that was not agreeable to the parliamentary commission.
Asked how money for the MPs’ car grant was mobilised, Chris Obore, the Parliament’s Director of Communication and Public Affairs, said Parliament reached out to President Yoweri Museveni, who in turn directed the finance ministry to mobilise money to bankroll the venture.
The issue has raised concern among activists, with some pointing to the country’s economic crisis as reason not to rubber-stamp the payments.
However, political analysts believed the move, despite the current economic climate, was a ploy by Museveni to keep MPs happy as he waited a bill which will essentially make sure he rules Uganda for life.
In a report in June 2016, the World Bank stated that Uganda’s economy had stagnated due to a number of reasons, including the recent general elections and other global factors. It was expected that the economy would grow at a rate of 4.5% in 2016.