3 October 2016

Africa: How Ugandan MPs' Pay Compares With Counterparts' Worldwide

Photo: Eric Dominic Bukenya/Daily Monitor
MPs during a parliament in session (file photo).

Ugandan parliamentarians are the second highest-paid in the East Africa after Kenya, a study of salaries for legislators in the region's five countries indicates. Kenyan legislators earn $13,740 each month, which amounts to about one and a half times the monthly salary of a Ugandan MP ($8,715).

An MP in Uganda earns a basic salary of Shs 11.18m, which is taxed. However, they also take home a raft of untaxed allowances, which elevates their total pay package above the Shs 20 million-mark.

These include subsistence allowance of Shs 4.5m, town running allowance (Shs 1m), gratuity (Shs 1m), medical allowance (Shs 500,000), committee sitting allowance (Shs 50,000), plenary sitting allowance (150,000), as well as a mileage allowance from Parliament to the furthest point of an individual MP's constituency.

In East Africa, the Ugandan MP's take total package is higher than that of a Tanzanian legislator ($7,266) and Rwandan ($1,271). The earnings of Ugandan MPs' have once again been put in the spotlight by the attempts by the 10th Parliament to increase the legislators' one-off car grant allowance by 94 per cent from Shs 103m of their predecessors to Shs 200m.

When the comparison net is cast wider to the rest of the African continent, however, the pay packages of Uganda's MPs pale in comparison to some of the continent's heavyweights such as Nigeria ($15,800) and South Africa ($16,243).

Early this year, when Parliamentarians attempted to increase their allowances, the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) protested the move, noting in a statement that it was unsustainable for the Ugandan taxpayer when "a Ugandan MP is already one of the most paid vis-a-viz the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

"With the number of MPs currently burgeoning at [432 members], this kind of expenditure is extremely unsustainable. Uganda taxpayers will have to pay Shs 11.4 billion monthly as pay and allowances for MPs, Shs 47.1bn to finance new vehicles for MPs, and Shs 1.1bn for new IPads," said the statement, signed by ACCU executive director Cissy Kagaba.

ACCU also noted: "Uganda's parliament is too huge compared to the population size and economy." It noted that within East Africa, Tanzania with a population 49.25 million people has 356 MPs, while Kenya 46.44 million has 349 members in the national assembly and 67 members in the senate.

Further afield, South Africa with a population of 53 million has a national assembly of 400 members and National Council of Provinces of 90 members, while Nigeria with a population of 174 million has 360 members in the House of Representatives and 109 members in the senate.

"All these countries are bigger than Uganda in terms of land mass and have a superior GDP than Uganda," the statement added. "For instance, Kenya has a GDP of $60 billion, Tanzania $48bn, South Africa $350bn and Nigeria $568bn. Uganda's GDP is just $26bn. There is, therefore, no justification for having such a huge Parliament, and paying MPs too much money."

GLOBAL PICTURE

On the world stage, basic salaries of some of the world's more pronounced economies are eye-catching. The salaries listed below do not, however, include allowances paid to legislators. For instance, Germany pays it legislators a basic salary of $9,958 per month, Spain ($3,658), Sweden ($8,275), Norway ($11,500), France ($7,158), Brazil ($13,133), USA ($14,500) and Britain ($8,783).

According to information on the British Parliament, MPs also receive allowances to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London and in their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency. The MPs also receive a pension.

In May 2009, the Daily Telegraph newspaper published details of expense claims by British MPs, which caused a scandal across the country and resulted in more than half the Commons being ordered to repay a total of £1.1 million to the British taxpayer.

To avoid a repeat of similar expenses scandal, the British government created the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which is now responsible for determining the MPs' pay and pension arrangements.

In the United States of America, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, the government provides allowances to cover "official office expenses, including staff, mail, travel between a Member's district or state and Washington DC, and other goods and services."

In Norway, the MPs' travel expenses for official journeys are covered in accordance with the government scale, according to a statement on the Norwegian Parliament's website (Storting).

"If the distance between the MP's home and the Storting is greater than 40km, travel costs to and from the MP's home at the beginning and close of each session, at holiday periods, and at weekends are covered. Travel costs will also be covered for two trips home a week for MPs with children up to the age of 19," explains the statement.

Interestingly, there are no travel allowances for Norwegian MPs within Oslo, their capital, where the Parliament is located. After late-evening meetings in the Storting (after 10pm), the government only covers taxi fares to the MP's Oslo accommodation.

HUGE DISPARITIES

According to a September 2013 report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an umbrella organisation for all parliaments in the world, a survey of parliamentary salaries and allowances revealed huge disparities in the take home for legislators around the world.

In order to come up with a uniform benchmark for assessing the salaries, IPU converted the figures that were provided by parliaments in their local currency into 'Purchasing Power Parity' (PPP) dollars using World Bank conversion tables.

The study found that the average basic salary in 2012 was of 62,075 PPP dollars per year per parliamentarian, for 110 chambers for which comparative data are available. The average was calculated by dividing the total amount of annual salaries by a total by the number of parliaments/chambers. The median basic salary was 48,971 PPP dollars (Iceland).

"Over a half of parliamentarians were paid less than 50,000 PPP dollars per year. There are huge disparities, of course: 25 per cent received below 25,000 PPP dollars while 14 per cent were paid over 100,000 PPP dollars," the report says.

In all, according to the IPU study, 46 of 125 parliamentary chambers answered that they provide attendance allowances to parliamentarians. At least 19 (41 per cent) paid the allowances by day, 12 (26 per cent) by parliamentary sessions, and eight (17 per cent) by month.

In addition to the basic allowances, the report says 65.6 per cent of parliaments provide parliamentarians with an office in parliament, while 46.8 per cent provide the means to employ personal staff to work directly for individual parliamentarians. A smaller percentage of parliaments provide an office in constituency and housing.

In 69 of the 119 parliaments surveyed (58 per cent), parliament determines parliamentary salaries, while 75 of 122 parliaments (61.5 per cent) determine allowances.

"Many parliaments responded that the salaries and allowances are fixed by law, which is one way in which parliament can exercise its power to determine salaries," says the report. "Elsewhere, the government/cabinet, the ministry of finance (Treasury) or the head of state sets parliament's salaries and allowances."

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