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NEW COUNTIES: Uganda to Spend Shs 2tn on 527 MPs

The Ugandan taxpayer will starting 2021 pay a staggering Shs 513bn per annum for the maintenance of Members of Parliament, Chimp Corps report.

This was after the August House passed a motion providing for the creation of 46 new counties, bringing the total number of constituencies to 353.

This is in addition to MP slots for district woman representatives, Uganda People’s Defence Force lawmakers; representatives of the youth, persons with disabilities, workers, and ex officio members.

According to Ministry of Finance’s certificate of financial implications, the cost of each MP per year is about Shs 973m.

This means that with new counties, Uganda will need Shs 513,382,320,000 per year to cater for Salaries, Allowances and Vehicles of 527 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the 11th Parliament per year and Shs 1,934,511,600,000 for the five year term of Office.

According to researcher Jonas Mbabazi, “This is 4.3% of Uganda’s Financial Year 2020/21 Budget.”

He added: “Do not forget that the most recent Parliamentary Scorecard shows that almost a third of these MPs spend their term of office without speaking on the floor of Parliament. Even if the speaker was to give each Member of Parliament one minute to speak on the floor, 5 years would not be enough for all the 527 MPs to speak on the floor of Parliament.”

The 46 new counties are curved out of the districts of Kibaale, Katakwi, Agago, lsingiro, Kisoro, Nakaseke, Kiboga, Buhweju, Lamwo, Kakumiro, Nakapiripirit, Mubende, Kwania, Tororo, Jinja, Ngora, Amolotar, Karenga, Napak, Ssembabule, Otuke and Ntungamo.

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The others are lsingiro, Bukwo, Kaberamaido, Kween, Namisindwa, Soroti, Serere, Mbale, Yumbe, Kyegegwa, Mitooma, Bududa, Pallisa, Namutumba, Manafwa, Tororo, Apac, Kaabong, Rwampara, Kikuube, Nornoyingo, Bulambuli, Nwoya and Busia.

The resolution passing the formation of new counties was met with stiff resistance from a section of lawmakers.

Hon. Muhammad Nsereko (Independent Kampala Central Division) in objection to the motion said government was unfair to districts such as Kampala by creating new counties in areas with small populations.

“Kampala is represented by only nine MPs with one Member of Parliament representing five million people yet Nakawa with 300,000 people has been given a new county. Let us talk of equity, this is injustice” said Nsereko.

Nsereko said that the yardstick for creating new counties leaves a lot to be admired.

He wondered why for instance the Sebei sub-region with a population of 350,000 people, would have more representatives than Rubaga Division with a much bigger population.

However, the Minister of Local Government, Hon. Raphael Magyezi, said that although his ministry tabled 15 new counties before Parliament on the 30th of June, 2020, there has been increased demand from the population through their district councils compelling the Cabinet to create additional 31 counties.

“We have done consultations, we have reviewed requests and considered recommendations of the 2015 report of the Parliament Committee on Public Service and Local Government recommending creation of additional counties,” Magyezi told the House chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday, 30 July 2020.

Magyezi explained that the yard stick for creating more counties, was based on factors such as geographical terrain, the level of economic development and wishes of the people.

But Jonas Mbabazi says increasing counties doesn’t not necessarily mean increased representation.

“So, for those that are peddling the argument of increasing numbers to ensure effective representation, when will these MPs represent their constituencies if they cannot speak in the committees or floor of parliament?” said Mbabazi.

High cost of public administration

The development comes at a time Treasury officials are warning that increasing counties and new cities will strain the resource envelope as the country grapples with a high debt burden and low tax revenues.

Keith Muhakanizi the Permanent Secretary / secretary to the treasury (PSSST) recently chastised legislators for negatively impacting on the budget performance through the creation of new administrative units.

“In my certificate I say there is no money, do you respect it? Do you want me to pull out my letters? How can I manage when powerful people are not respecting my advice and then it becomes law?” Muhakanizi added.

Mbabazi says this cost of public administration is financially unsustainable in the long run.

“The creation of other administrative units is usually justified by the need to bring service delivery points closer to the people. As the original district headquarters re-locate to new areas, there will be the creation of new Town Councils and other administrative units that will have a bearing on the national resource envelope,” said Mbabazi.

“Uganda continues to create new administrative units despite the lack of resources to finance their operations. It is worth pointing out that there is already an outstanding bill for establishing town councils and sub-counties that were meant to be operationalized in FY 2017/18,” Mbabazi emphasised.

“Government to-date has not provided the Shs 29.8 Billion. Now, the creation of more constituencies for is an unnecessary burden to the national resource envelope.”

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