By John Njororge
On Friday May 22, the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) submitted its Memorandum on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2015 to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
The submission came weeks after news emerged that government was intending to include an additional 36 constituencies before the 2016 general elections. These new plan was communicated to district leaders in late April by local government minister Adolf Mwesigye.
The current 9th Parliament of Uganda comprises of: 238 Constituency Representatives, 112 District Woman Representatives, 10 Uganda People’s Defence Forces Representatives, 5 Representatives of the Youth, 5 Representatives of Persons with Disabilities, 5 Representatives of Workers and 13 Ex-officio Members. If the Local Government ministry plans are actualized, the total number of MPs will shot to 424 MPs after 2016, representing an average population of 37million (1:80,000=MP to civilian ration).
On average, a Ugandan MP earn Ushs 20 million every month, excluding parliamentary allowances. Every new parliamentary circle, MPs are also given a pay-off to purchase a car of their choosing.
With the proposed new entrants, parliament’s wage bill for MPs alone will be an estimated Shs8.4 billion. In the coming financial year 2015-16, it is government is expected to allocate approximate Shs293 billion to parliament for both wage and non-wage expenditure.
In the Financial year 2014-15, government allocated Shs331 billion to parliamentary commissions, Shs62 billion of which was allocated to salaries and wages. At Ushs 331 billion, parliament was allocated more that the ICT ministry (Ushs17 billion), the Trade and Tourism Ministry (Ushs96.6 billion) and the lands Ministry (Ushs71 billion) combined. Cutting expenditure on a large parliament could largely avail more money to other more critical sectors like health, education and Agriculture among others.
The financials aside, CCEDU also recommends for the right to recall an MP as provided for under Article 84 remain with the electorate.
“A member of Parliament who ceases to be a member of a political party or organization for which he or she stood unless recalled by the electorate or is subject to Article 83(1) remains an MP for the remaining period until fresh elections are held”, the CCEDU’s Executive Committee chairperson Dr. Livingstone Sewanyana noted.
Other proposals fronted by the civil society outfit included: strengthening the funding mechanisms of the EC; strengthening the powers of the EC to manage and regulate aspects of elections such as security, candidates’ coverage in the media, conduct, use of money/resources in campaigns; and the need to further secure the tenure of serving EC Commissioners.
Chairing the Committee, Hon. Stephen Tashobya welcomed the CCEDU proposals noting that their rich content would immensely help the Committee to draft a comprehensive report on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2015 as required by Parliament under the rules of procedure. Other members of the Committee present included: Hon. Abdu Katuntu (MP, Bugweri County), Hon. Fox Odoi (MP, West Budama County), Hon. Paul Mwiru (MP, Jinja East Municipality), Hon. Sarah Mpabwa (representing UPDF in Parliament), Hon. Jennifer Mujungu (Woman MP, Ntoroko District) and Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba (MP, Ndorwa East County).
Nyambura is a senior journalist based in Kampala