Fresh off the heels of receiving an upscale vehicle as a former Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi is poised to be bestowed with yet another luxurious car from the government, this time in his capacity as a former Vice President.
Ssekandi, who presided over the legislature from 2001 to 2011, was one of the five former Speakers of Parliament presented with new cars by Speaker Anita Among on behalf of the Parliamentary Commission in December of the previous year.
The other recipients included Rebecca Kadaga, the current 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs; Edward Rugumayo, Francis Butagira, and Al Haji Moses Kigongo, Vice Chairman NRC 1986-1996.
Now, just a month after Parliament’s controversial decision to furnish former Speakers with new luxury cars, the Ministry of Public Service has triggered a similar public outcry.
They have submitted a request for UGX 7.2 billion to Parliament to procure comparable vehicles for former Vice Presidents and Prime Ministers as part of their retirement emoluments and benefits.
During her appearance before Parliament’s Committee of Public Service and Local Government, Catherine Bitarakwate, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Service, appealed for an additional UGX 7.2 billion to secure vehicles for these retired leaders
“This is a statutory obligation in fulfilment of the provisions of the Emoluments and benefits of the President, Vice President and Prime Minister Act 2010 and fell due in FY2021/22,” said Bitarakwate.
Other former leaders expected to benefit include former Vice Presidents Specioza Wandira and Prof Gilbert Bukenya, and former Prime Ministers Ruhakana Rugunda and Amama Mbabazi. The two former prime ministers have already been deployed by the president in different capacities, and their salaries are personal to the holder.
Hoima City East Division MP Patrick Isingoma expressed concern over the planned expenditure, hence calling out the Government for spending public resources in total disregard of the plight of taxpayers, wondering why some of the former leaders who are slated to benefit from the car bonanza should receive cars yet they are actively already holding public office.
Some of us are perturbed by the way this exercise takes place. We have some of these leaders who are at various levels, for example, the former Vice President Edward Ssekandi, the other day he was given a car as former Speaker, is he also among the people going to benefit from the cars in Parliament Service and if it is so, is it fair? Because really, we should be seen as fair in what we are doing as a Government. Some of these people already have high-level jobs that the President gave them, and they have cars.
Stephen Mugole, MP for Kabweri County, called for the need to review the two conflicting laws to avoid double entitlements for former leaders remarking,
If there is need for the review of the law, then I think even the Ministry of Public Service could suggest what should be done because there is a lacuna somewhere and the public isn’t aware of what is happening that if you are getting benefits as a former Deputy Speaker, are you also getting as a former Speaker, so those things need clarity.
However, Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, Committee Chairperson, argued that since the entitlements are a legal obligation from the Government, there is a need for the Ministry of Public Service to point out the leaders in critical need of these cars, just in case all the resources being requested for aren’t available.
Is it possible for you to provide us with a clear breakdown, for example, if you have a former Prime Minister but currently you are working as a Special Presidential Adviser, and that officer is still fully funded, or if you were Speaker of Parliament and you became Vice President and Parliament has already provided, but it wouldn’t be fair if you leave others not attended to, it wouldn’t be fair? So if you can work that out and put those who we can start with so we can push that from Shs7.2Bn, maybe we need Shs3.5Bn, we can start with that. But of course, there is a law that we shouldn’t compromise, but how do we start with the most leading and move that way, said Mapenduzi
Bitarakwate, in response, told the Committee that the double entitlements to former leaders are brought by conflicting laws like the President’s, Prime Minister Emoluments and Benefits Act 2010 and the Parliament Administration Act.