Finance Mustafa Mkulo has said he does not know whether sitting or any other allowances for Members of Parliament have been increased substantially as reported in the media and confirmed by National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda on Tuesday.
While Makinda told journalists that the daily sitting allowance during House sessions had risen from 70,000/- to 200,000/-, chiefly owing to hikes in house rental charges in Dodoma, the minister told this paper in a telephone interview in Dar es Salaam yesterday that he knows “completely nothing” on the matter.
Pressed for elaboration, Mkulo recommended that the appropriate place to go for details was the Speaker’s Office.
“It is better you contact the Speaker for details on what she is reported to have said. As I speak, I know completely nothing about the increase being talked about,” he said.
Winding up debate on the 2011/2012 government Budget in July, the minister said the effect of personnel allowances on the national budget was “very minimal”.
He said the 2011/2012 Budget totalled 13.5trn/- but personnel allowances accounted for only 352.74bn/-, including 25.65bn/- in sitting allowances for public servants – out of which 4.92bn/- went to MPs.
Correspondents Rose Mwalongo and Gadiosa Lamtey meanwhile report that Ubungo legislator John Mnyika of the opposition Chadema has said that the President, “in his capacity as the First Employer, is the only one with the legal mandate to increase MPs’ salaries and allowances, and so far he has not notified notify us (legislators) in writing on the said rise”.
“For all I know, the reported review of perks has yet to be approved by the President and is therefore null and void,” he noted.
Mnyika made the remarks in a presentation on the role of the legislature at a seminar in Dar es Salaam yesterday organised by the Legal and Human Rights Centre for 50 students from 17 universities.
“The much I remember is that copies of the only letter specifying our salary and allowance levels were given to us when we came to the House last year. We are yet to receive any further memo or other communication in connection with the issue,” he said.
According to Mnyika, the National Assembly is not allowed to discuss its own (MPs’) allowances, “and some legislators once raised the matter with Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and he promised to find another session at which to discuss the issue”.
The MP further explained that, under parliamentary regulations, allowances are normally deposited into MPs’ personal accounts weekly depending on the attendance of each legislator.
A number of academics, private sector employees and ordinary citizens also faulted the decision to increase allowances in respect of MPs and other senior public servants without the benefits trickling down to the rest of the population, particularly lowly paid employees.
Most said the practice was unfair and unjustified in that it came when a significant number of Tanzanians survived on less than one dollar a day.
A visibly enraged Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) executive director Ananilea Nkya described the reported hiking of MPs’ allowances as “daylight robbery that ought to be condemned in the strongest terms”.
“It’s absurd and totally against the principles of good governance. Everybody, every Tanzanian, must condemn the payment of the new package. We must join forces and ensure the decision (to pay the hiked allowances) is rescinded,” she said in an interview.
“The package should be scrapped immediately, and this should be done regardless of whether the allowances are justified by law or custom or regulation,” she added.
Nkya said the allowances were being paid while millions of Tanzanians were facing life-threatening problems relating to vital infrastructure and provision of basic goods and services such as food, housing, education, health, clean and safe water and electricity.
Dr Benson Bana, a political scientist and lecturer with the University of Dar es Salaam, was recently quoted as criticising the whole idea of paying MPs and senior civil servants on routine duty what is vaguely known as sitting allowance.
“My stand has always been clear on this issue. There is no justification of paying allowances to both MPs and senior government executives while they are executing their routine duties,” he said.
The don, an expert in human resources management, said there was no scientific evidence of sitting allowances necessarily serving as an incentive to employees.
“Sitting allowances to public leaders is not duty facilitation allowance in meetings. It is not brain-facilitation allowance in meetings. It cannot be used as a motivational ingredient for improving performance of public leaders,” he argued.
He said sitting allowances could be justified only if paid after one had genuinely worked beyond official hours.
Contacted for comment on the issue of MPs’ allowances, Zanzibar Second Vice President Seif Ali Iddi said the government had done the right thing because the move would motivate the legislators into better performance.
“I don’t want to comment any further on the matter because (National Assembly) Speaker Anne Makinda has given enough clarification. I hope everyone has understood her because there are no ill motives on the part of the government,” he added.