Uganda: Tea, Water, Cakes and Samosas to Cost Shs1.1 Billion

The budget for committees of Parliament has jumped from Shs13b to Shs22b.

According to details of the budget this newspaper has seen, more than half of that, Shs16b will be spent on travelling, both inland and abroad.

According to the director communication and public affairs, Mr Chris Obore, the increase was because the committees were previously under budgeted.

The legislature takes about 1.2 per cent of the national Budget meaning that even what you see as an increase in committees' budget is within the 1.2 per cent of the national Budget given to Parliament.

"An underfunded legislature is dangerous to the growth of democracy because it is opened to powerful external forces that can disrupt Parliament work," he said.

Mr Obore added, "We asked for increase in the committees' budget in order for Parliament to fund all activities of these committees and avoid temptations from groups or individuals whose agenda may not necessarily be Parliament's agenda."

The money is meant to facilitate committee members in the day to day activities on their committees. It will be spent on allowances (honoraria) to committee chairpersons and their deputies (Shs1.4b), travels both in and outside of Uganda (Shs16b), sitting allowances to committee members (Shs2.2b), refreshments which will include tea, water, cakes and samosas (Shs1.1b).

Put in context, with 56 committee chairpersons and deputies for all the 28 committees, Shs1.4b will be spent on committee heads, each pocketing around Shs25m per year regardless of the number of sittings their committees will hold. It has been categorised as honoraria, with a uniform figure for each committee (Shs50. 4m)

The rest of the ordinary committee members will have to share the Shs2.2b amongst themselves by taking Shs50, 000 per sitting per individual. However, even the committee chairpersons, and their deputies, will tap into that fund too, each taking Shs60,000 and Shs55,000, respectively per sitting.

The document shows that Shs1.5 billion has been saved for select committees that are yet to be formed.

"This is based on the experience that each committee on average takes Shs150m and it is expected that 10 select committees will be constituted in the financial year 2016/17," the document reads.

The Shs22b, however, is not equally shared among the 28 committees. Apart from the uniform honoraria, all committees have been allocated different total for the different categories.

To do that, the Parliament leadership used a weighting system to determine which committee gets how much. It was based on numerical strength of a committee and the frequency of meetings based on the tally from the last Parliament.

Committees that had 80 and above meetings in the last Parliament were weighted 5 and therefore allocated more money and those that had between 1 and 20 were weighted one and therefore allocated less money.

Using that, accountability committees; Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) are the most lucrative committees each with Shs1b to spend this financial year.

Cosase's budget rose by Shs391b to Shs656b which it got in the last financial year. It will have Shs76m to spend on refreshments, Shs414m for inland travels, Shs361m for travel abroad and Shs145m for sitting allowance.

PAC's budget rose by Shs447b from the Shs717b it got last year. The committee has Shs100m for refreshments, Shs192m for sitting allowance, Shs438m for travel inland and Shs361m for its members to travel abroad.

Source: The Monitor.

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