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FDC MPs defy party on cars

FDC spokesman Ssemujju Nganda

An FDC-sponsored motion to block parliament from giving free cars to MPs seems to have run into trouble from within the opposition party ranks even before it is tabled.

Many of the FDC MPs interviewed for this story didn’t support the motion and seemed to suggest they were not consulted by the party leadership before it was mooted.

In separate interviews on Wednesday and Thursday, the MPs described the pending motion, which the FDC spokesman, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, is yet to introduce in parliament for debate, as populist, ill-conceived and narrow in scope to address the public outcry against parliament’s skyrocketing extravagance.

“That approach of pretence to civil society does not lead to delivery of social services to people or even improve it,” said Reagan Okumu, the Aswa county MP.

Okumu, who is also the FDC vice president in charge of northern Uganda, said FDC is going to lose the motion because it is ill-conceived.

“People should understand that the debate should not be about how much MPs are getting, but the bloated size of parliament; who it serves and its efficiency,” Okumu said.

“Even if we are given helicopters, so long as we are few and reasonable to monitor expenditures, legislate and provide the requisite oversight.”

Okumu further argued that the public discontent “requires a political solution but not denying parliament facilitation to make it vulnerable to the executive.”

During the FDC meeting held at the party’s headquarters at Najjanankumbi on Monday, FDC resolved that the government should instead give MPs car loans and the money be deducted from their salaries over a specified period of time.

In attendance was the Leader of Opposition in parliament, Winnie Kiiza, Chief Whip Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, and secretary general Nathan Nandala-Mafabi. Others were, Nabilah Naggayi Sempala, Mubarak Munyagwa, Wafula Oguttu and Ingrid Turinawe.

The party tasked Ssemujju to introduce the motion in parliament, which seeks to effect the party’s  resolution. Aruu South MP, Samuel Odonga Otto, told us that he would not support his party’s intended motion.

“It is misconceived and I cannot support it. Do not expect me to walk from Pader to Kampala to legislate. I have to be facilitated. I need a shuttle,” Otto said.

SHOT DOWN

Other FDC MPs, who have shot down the motion, include Nabilah Naggayi Sempala (Kampala woman), Ibrahim Kasozi (Makindye East), Angelline Osegge (Soroti woman), Jack Wamai Wamanga (Mbale municipality) and Prof Ogenga Latigo (Agago North). Currently, FDC has 35 MPs in Parliament. The Observer has interviewed 10 of them and none supported Ssemujju’s motion.

MPs Nandala Mafabi (L) and Odonga Otto

Osegge said she doubts Ssemujju’s motion was generated by the party structures.

“That is a statement of Hon Ssemujju. I don’t think that it is the position of the party,” Osegge said.

She argued that the discussion should be about how much the MPs should get other than seeking to scrap the facilitation.

“Besides, even in budget terms; what impact can it have on the budget?” Osegge asked.

Parliament has set aside Shs 64.6bn to buy cars for the MPs. If the FDC motion were to succeed, that money would be spent on the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, which is critical yet poorly- funded.

According to the medium-term expenditure framework contained in this year’s budget speech, it is projected that Shs 55bn will be spent on the ICT sector. In the last financial year, ICT contributed 2.5% of GDP (2015), employed approximately 1.3 million Ugandans, and raised Shs 484.4bn in tax revenue.

On his part, Mbale municipality MP, Jack Wamai Wamanga, says the current approach of giving MPs Shs 150m each to buy cars once in five years is a cheaper option.

“If they are to give us government cars like it is the case with other government officials such as permanent secretaries, and return those cars after five years, it will mean that government has to pay drivers and maintain them. That is more expensive.”

On her part, Osegge advocates cost-sharing.

“That is more accommodative to both the legislator and taxpayers. We can work out the modalities,” she said.

Okumu, however, cautioned that any such cost-sharing arrangement must not be detrimental to the MPs.

“I have been in parliament for 20 years now; if members are not facilitated, they will not be efficient. This is why the parliamentary commission was established to budget for members’ welfare because it is assumed that financial independence guarantees parliament’s independence,” he said.

Another FDC legislator, who declined to be named for fear of stirring controversy, said most of the money they get is spent on voters.

“These so-called good allowances from parliament are spent on voters in form of paying school fees, health bills and other amenities that ideally should be provided by the executive,” the MP said, adding that the solution lies in changing the political direction of the country.

FDC SPEAKS

When contacted yesterday, Harold Kaija, the FDC deputy secretary general, said that party members who are contradicting the party position are being selfish, and not standing by the same principles they were voted for.

“Our manifesto is against abuse of power…we cannot be the very people to support the abuse of power. We said less government spending; why should we be the same people to support it [over spending]? That is not proper,” Kaija said.

According to Kaija, FDC will not penalize its members, who decide to oppose Ssemujju’s motion but their actions are not right.

“We may fail to implement this but we shall go on the record. Those who refuse it, they will have chosen to be the people’s enemies,” he said.

Based on the reception that FDC’s motion has received internally, some observers think its success is a far cry. It will require the movers of the motion to persuade not just their FDC colleagues but the ruling party majority in the House to back their view. Ssemujju believes it is possible.

skakaire@observer.ug

This post was syndicated from Breaking and latest news, analysis, comments, business, lifestyle, entertainment and sports from Uganda. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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