East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) MPs have decided to share $1M (Shs 3.6bn) as allowances for virtual meetings held during the COVID-19 pandemic, a move that has triggered fury at the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat.
This large sum of money was sent by Uganda Parliament as contribution to the EAC Budget for FY2020/21.
ChimpReports has learned that the sixth meeting of the EALA Commission held on September 15, 2020 starting at 2:30 pm resolved to use money from Uganda.
According to the resolutions of the EALA Commission, which ChimpReports has seen, the MPs directed the Office of the Clerk to “partially settle the fifty-four (54) Members’ DSA and allowance arrears to a tune of USD 1,066,198 from USD 1,499,518.47 received from the Republic of Uganda (Parliament), being contributions for FY’ 2020/2021, with each Member getting USD.19, 767 (Shs 71m).”
This website was yet to receive a comment from the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday morning.
Last week, Tanzania rejected the idea of borrowing money from the General Reserve Account of EAC to pay allowances for the MPs.
Speaker Martin Ngoga (Rwanda) had on August 10 directed the clerk to “partially settle to a tune of $590,780 out of $679,651 recently received from Burundi to offset the members’ daily subsistence allowance arrears and the remaining $106,871 to partially settle the outstanding obligations.”
Earlier, the Clerk partially settled $584,000 as part of the lawmakers’ allowance arrears for virtual meetings held during the COVID-19 pandemic period (March-June).
Tired of MPs’ greed, Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Amb Wilbert Ibuge in a letter to EAC SG Liberat Mfumukeko dated Sept.10, 2020, rejected the idea of borrowing money from the reserves.
“With regret, I wish to inform you that the United Republic of Tanzania was not consulted and in that respect has not consented to the borrowing of $1.5m and $165,339 from IUCEA and LVFO, respectively,” said Ibuge.
Realising that Tanzania was keen on pushing back on the issue of allowances, the MPs late last week decided to share the money from Uganda.
MPs said they were informed that EALA recently received the disbursements from Uganda (Parliament) amounting to USD 1,499,518.47.
The Commission considered the outstanding arrears for Members and “resolved to charge the outstanding allowances/claims amounting to USD 1,774,670 in the EAC General Reserve Fund” and also “include Budget of the outstanding allowances/claims amounting to USD 1,774,670 in the EAC Budget for FY’ 2020/21.
The MPs decided that remaining USD 2 432,600 should be used to partially settle other outstanding/projected obligations including: Salaries for Staff (September 2020) – USD 102,000; Jubilee Medical Insurance Cover (July – December 2020)- USD 120,000; EAC Audit Commission – USD 100,000; Education and spouse allowance – USD 24,800; Administrative costs – USD 75,000; and Personal Aides to Members – USD 10,800.
They also directed the Office of the Clerk to include the remaining balance of arrears (USD 617,452) to the EALA Budget for FY’2020/21.
Tough times ahead
However, officials told ChimpReports that the MPs’ decision leaves them with “nothing for their September salaries.”
This could see them default on their loans.
EALA MPs, including Speaker Ngoga, are heavily indebted to the extent that almost all of them take home less than 200 dollars in salaries.
For example, Ngoga owes almost $500,000 when his salary is 120,000 per year.
Other MPs have a salary of $72,000 per year which goes to CRDB bank in Tanzania.
The loans were obtained without any authorization of the EAC Secretariat which is supposed to endorse such obligations to banks and would not allow any loan above 50% of anyone’s salary.
“Now that MPs have started using contributions from partner states for their own allowances, the EAC is headed for tough times,” said a Ugandan official who preferred anonymity to speak freely.
The contested allowances for 11 meetings were held between May 14 to September 2.
EALA MPs asked to be paid $2m for these meetings.
The total number of hours of the entire video conferences held in five months is 25.
This means EAC taxpayers who foot the regional assembly’s bill will pay $80,000 for every hour of each virtual conference held by EALA MPs in the last five months.
Interestingly, the 5-month MPs’ zoom meetings focused on discussing Rules of Procedure for virtual meetings and sittings of the Assembly and appointment of standing committees.
An investigation by ChimpReports has established that that the majority of the lawmakers held the virtual meetings from the cities where they live as transport was heavily restricted by their respective governments after the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, most government buildings such as Ministries were literally closed with only essential staff allowed to work.
“So there was no travel at all for them. And according to the rules and regulations of EAC, Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA) is received to help with hotel, food and other items when someone travels. We were surprised to see MPs claim all this money,” said an official at the EALA who asked to be protected to speak freely.
Each EALA MP now claims USD560 per virtual meeting held even from one’s home or in Ministry located about 1 or 2 kilometers away from their residences.