New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Govt Plans to Spend Sh1 Billion On MPs Ipads

MPs will get the latest version of iPads as a way of reducing the cost of stationery and embracing e-governance.This will cost the Government over sh1b.

The decision to buy iPads was taken by the Parliamentary Commission, and it is awaiting execution by the contracts committee of the Parliament.

According to parliamentary commissioners, Emmanuel Dombo and Chris Baryomunsi, the money will be got from the Parliament's budget for stationery.

"The decision has already been taken at policy level. Each MP will get the latest version of iPads to help them carry out their work efficiently," Dombo said.

When asked whether the iPads will be taken back to the Parliament in case an MP leaves the House, Dombo said the iPads "will be personal to holder."

"These iPads will be the property of individual MPs as a form of facilitation. They can, for example use them to carry out quick research during plenary sessions in order to make meaningful contributions to debates," he said.

The committee argues that the Parliament is spending a lot of money on stationery. Every department at the Parliament has a budget for stationery, which makes it hard to ascertain how much the institution spends on stationery in a year.

However, every committee is allocated sh10m for stationery, while the clerk's office gets sh152m for a year. With 25 parliamentary committees, sh250m is spent on stationery for committees alone per year.

According to George Bwambale, a support engineer with Elite Computers, a company dealing in Apple products, the latest iPad is the iPad4 with 64GB. It costs $1,097 (about sh2.8m). With 375 MPs, the Parliament will spend over sh1b to buy the iPads.

Sources at the Parliament say, early this year, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, wrote to the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) ministry, rejecting its plan to buy MPs computers. They said the Speaker argued that the ministry was going to divert the money meant for buying computers for rural administrative structures.

Last year, plans by the Uganda Communications Commissions and the ICT committee of Parliament to buy MPs iPads hit a snag when some MPs, especially in the opposition, rejected the deal.

MPs Wamai Wamanga and Odonga Otto, cited parliamentary rules of procedure which do not allow MPs to be facilitated by ministries and government departments in their oversight role for fear of being compromised.

The Ninth Parliament recently amended the rules of procedure, allowing MPs to access chambers with phones, laptops and iPads. Uganda will join other countries like Rwanda whose parliamentary proceedings rely heavily on ICT. MPs David Bahati, Odonga Otto, Ssebuliba Mutumba, Wilfred Niwagaba and Rose Akol welcomed the idea, saying it is a timely intervention.

"We are in an information technology age and the Parliament cannot afford to ignore this if it is to engender efficiency. I believe it is a worthwhile investment because it will reduce costs on stationery," Bahati said.

An iPad can be used to play power point presentations, copy PDF files, read e-books, and carry out a host of computing tasks like scanning news feeds, browsing the web, emailing, Facebook and tweeting. It can also be used to make presentations, create word documents, watch photo slides and videos while on field tours.

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