National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda has revealed that nearly half the Members of Parliament want to step down due to inadequate remuneration compared to the high cost of living.
Hon Makinda made the remarks over the weekend during a public rally at Ikwivaha ward in Njombe town, Iringa Region at which she asked the constituents to accept her decision of not contesting as an MP for Njombe –South in 2015.
“I request you to accept my decision of not contesting as an MP in 2015. I have served you for a long time. I now want to rest to focus on my private activities,” Makinda said.
The Speaker’s remarks on the MPs package were prompted by one of the residents, Alli Mhagama who sought further clarification on the legislators’ allowance package which has been a subject of media and public debate in the past few weeks.
Mhagama had asked the Speaker to give her stance on the allowances saying she and former Speaker Samuel Sitta were quoted as supporting the increment of the sitting allowances.
“Honorable Speaker we want to hear your stance on the MPs allowances because you and former speaker Sitta are supporting the increment,” Mhagama said.
Responding Makinda said: “ For your information nearly half of the MPs want to step down …they have been asking me whether they can quit, but I always remind them that they cannot do so because they would force the government to incur the cost of holding bye elections.”
She added: “Ten years down the line, any person with other business or with a profession will not contest for the post because it is inviting poverty. This is a fact. I am a Christian and I am not telling lies.
Makinda however called upon the wananchi to understand that MPs were not public servants, but a group of people whose contract lasted five years and that they had their own governing rules including the running of parliament.
She clarified that the MPs’ salary of 2,300,000/- per month attracted an income tax of over 700,000/-.
“The sitting allowances we were talking about are not only in our system, but are applicable world wide,” she said.
The increment of the MPs sitting allowance has stirred a hot debate in the past few weeks with the public questioning the fairness of increasing the MPs allowances while other public servants were poorly paid.
“I want to make it clear…the new sitting allowances for MPs are paid only during parliamentary sessions…they are not paid continuously, as speculated in the streets. They are sitting allowances and not general allowances,” Makinda stressed.
“The allowances are paid to the MPs when they are in session. You all know that there are four sessions per year, three of which run for nine days each. When the legislators go back to constituencies, they do not get the allowances,” clarified Makinda.
The sitting allowance has been increased to 200,000/- in new allowances, up from the previous 70,000/-.
Not all MPs were in agreement with the increase, with outspoken Kigoma North legislator Zitto Kabwe (Chadema) stressing that the increment was unlawful and that the PSC members should be held accountable for it.
“MPs who have pocketed the new allowances should return the money because it was paid against the law,” stressed Kabwe, who is also deputy leader of the official opposition camp in parliament.
St. Augustine University of Tanzania Prof Mwesiga Baregu said it is extremely bad for the president and his government to fail to look into the situation of economically disadvantaged groups and consider only the demands of the ‘parliamentarians’.
The prevailing problems in the country might become worse if the government will not systematically look and consider the demands of other groups, he said.
He explained that principally it is wrong to pay allowances to MPs who are elected to sit in parliament and get salaries out of their meetings for them to have double payments.
Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) deputy secretary general Fr Edger Mbegu, was of the view that economic hardships are not only experienced by MPs but the situation cuts across, students, doctors, teachers and many other social groups.