By Denis Jjuuko
I don’t know whether the bailout letter circulating from a cabinet minister is legit or not. However, the indebtedness of Members of Parliament and cabinet ministers is well documented.
President Museveni once claimed in a speech that he knew only less than 10 MPs/ministers who were financially sound. The rest were as poor as yours truly (perhaps with less debt). An 85 year old former Deputy Prime Minister was in the media recently that his house is being taken by money lenders! How can you be 85 and money lenders are taking your house? How do you enjoy your old age?
The reason MPs are said to be poor are elections. The said letter claimed Shs850m debts. Assuming MPs earn Shs30m every month (basic salary), it means the projected income is Shs1.8b in five years.
I have also heard that MPs spend a lot of money on their constituents. I have started seeing ambulances from people aspiring to be MPs moving around and each MP has almost bought an ambulance for their constituents. Where do these ambulances take people?
There are no functional hospitals in the constituencies. If you care about people’s health, the cost of an ambulance is enough to set up a basic health centre that can offer basic and effective treatment for your constituents.
Most of the diseases that affect our people are easy to treat and mainly preventable. A health centre would treat and sensitize constituents on mainly hygiene and how to avoid catching diseases. Women would have a better place to give birth. But also it would provide some sort of income for the MP.
The likes of USAID would do a lot disease prevention sensitization in such a place and probably also support once in a while with infrastructure and equipment.
MPs need to have a sustainable way of facilitating their constituents. Assuming, the cost of a campaign is Shs500m (I am using the 850m in the letter as average cost of a campaign because 350m is most likely interest and penalties), MPs would still remain with Shs1.3b to spend and have a sustainable income.
When MPs are elected, they are given Shs200m to buy a car. The majority of them buy 16 year old vehicles worth Shs50m or less. The balance of Shs150m, could be used to partly clear any debts that may have been incurred above the Shs500m I mention earlier. Basically if you don’t have Shs500m, leave politics to those who have it or can raise it in a sustainable way or perhaps stand for LC1.
Anyway, with Shs1.3 billion, an MP would be able to take home Shs21.6m every month (minus the hefty allowances they receive). Being an MP isn’t a full time job, so they should still be able to earn from their businesses.
Of the Shs21.6m, MPs should spend Shs11.6m every month on their constituents. This translates to Shs386,666 everyday, which I believe is enough to cater for the constituents’ wants (they aren’t needs). The balance of Shs10m should be saved.
Remember, they still earn from their businesses and receive allowances including fuel (on night buses upcountry, there are many MPs going back to their constituencies, so they can save the fuel allowance).
MPs with rural constituencies don’t need to buy any houses in Kampala once they are elected like most of them do. They are only in Kampala from Monday night to Thursday afternoon. So there is no need to spend Shs500m on a house in Kampala in which you spend only three nights a week or just 12 nights a month. An AirBnB would cater for their accommodation needs.
At less than Shs100,000 a night, one would get a very decent place to live. This would be Shs1.2m a month and if you are consistent and assure the owner of long term tenancy, you will get the room at half the price. A rented room is better than renting a full house because you don’t pay any bills like security, cleaners, water, electricity etc directly. In five years, an MP would have spent just Shs72m on their accommodation or actually Shs40m (being long term clients).
Barack Obama says in one of his books that he was living that way as a senator in Washington. He didn’t buy a house in Washington when he was a senator and left his family in Chicago until when he became president. Our MPs can learn from him since many love copying Americans.
They also don’t need to move their kids from Naluzaari primary to the elite schools in Kampala that charge millions.
And definitely don’t need slay queens (or kings) in the city. If indulgence is a must, they should stay within their lane not with queens who demand iPhone 11 Pro Max and Toyota Kawundo!
MPs should then lobby NGOs and private companies to put some infrastructure in their communities. Companies have CSR budgets which they can allocate to some of these causes. But I highly doubt MPs approach any of these companies!
If seedlings for coffee is what your constituents want, why buy them when the Uganda Coffee Development Authority can give them to you for free? If NAADS is building a storage facility near your county, why don’t you be part of it and position your people to benefit from it even when it is in somebody else’s constituency?
When organisations like Rotary organise for example medical camps, MPs stay away instead of being strategic and take advantage. When the Katikkiro is urging people to grow coffee and distributing coffee seedlings, some MPs are just in Kampala eating burgers.
During campaigns, MPs can lobby their friends to contribute to them. If we can contribute to weddings and all sorts of stuff, why wouldn’t we help friends out their campaigning for political office? Those who are genuine friends, we can support. MPs and those aspiring to be should stop behaving as if they are Bill Gates when actually they are just poor people.
And when people become MPs, they should remain in close contact with their friends. Handing over phones to political assistants or not returning phone calls from friends doesn’t help their cause.
MPs should also know that however powerful and strong they may appear, they are just an election away from being voted out. They should prepare for life outside the house. They are highly paid and subsidized, they can not surely be so poor, poorer than the poorest of their constituents!
The writer is a Communication and Visibility Consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org
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