The logic of paying members of parliament salaries and allowances after dissolution of the House is under scrutiny after Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda called on the Parliamentary Services Commission to recommend ways to handle it.
Speaking during inauguration of the Commission in Dar es Salaam yesterday, the Premier said the government faced a serious dilemma on the issue in the last session.
“It really disturbed us (government)…we faced a difficult time in establishing the legality and logic of continuing paying salaries and allowances to the MPs after expiry of their tenure as representatives of wananchi,” he said.
It is understood that tenure of MPs end after the President dissolves the Parliament and subsequently announced in the government gazette, thus marking the end of his or her salaries and allowances, according to Pinda.
The country’s Constitution, Article 65 (1), states that the life of the Parliament is five-years, he said, adding that Article 65 (2) “life of the Parliament starts from the date the new Parliament was called after the general elections up to the date when the Parliament was officially dissolved to pave the way for general elections.”
However, the PM said, since one of the core task of the Parliamentary Service Commission was to advise the President on issues related to MPs salaries and allowances, it should work on “the matter so that MPs could understand it.”
But experts interviewed yesterday had differing comments on the practice of continuing to pay Members of Parliament salaries and allowances after the expiry of their tenure.
Some described the payments as illogical, saying as representatives of wananchi, they should only get salaries, while others argue that the tenure was constitutional, so the terms and conditions should be respected.
Dr. Benson Banna from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) said the constitution which provided for MPs tenure should be respected, and described the current argument on whether or not MPs should continue being paid salaries and allowances after the expiry of their tenure as nonsense.
“MPs need to be paid salaries for 60 months (five years) and not more than that. There is no need for debate. It is unconditional and illogical to continue paying MPs beyond 60-months constitution limit,” said the don.
But others criticised the commission and legislators pushing for legalisation of their salaries and allowances, describing their concerns as baseless.
Dr Azaveli Lwaitama, head of philosophy department at UDSM, said it was wrong to pay the MPs salaries, explaining that as representatives of wananchi, they deserve only allowances for the sessions they attended and not salaries.
“How can you pay representatives of wananchi…these people (MPs) should have other sources of income (they work as teachers, farmers etc) instead of being paid salaries. Being an MP is not a job…they are representatives of wananchi who should be paid allowances and not salaries,” insisted Lwaitama.
Meanwhile, the Bunge Office is pressing the government to speed up drafting and endorsement of regulations of the Parliamentary Registration Act in a move to enhance financial autonomy and redress related constraints facing the august House.
The regulations are said to be key components in the enhancement of Parliament’s independence, which, for years, had been interrupted by lack of reliable funding.
“An independent Parliament is impossible without financial muscle,” said Job Ndugai, Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission, whose new team was officially inaugurated by the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda yesterday in Dar es Salaam.
“That’s why we want to impress upon government authorities to speed up drafting of regulations of this Act to give the Parliament more financial autonomy in managing its own operations’ funds,” Ndugai added in an exclusive interview after the inauguration ceremony.
The Parliament Administration Act-2008 which was endorsed by the National Assembly in 2009, allows the august House through its Parliamentary Service Commission to have a “stand-alone fund,” separate from the general budget which allocates money to different state arms.
But enforcement of the Act--in terms of allowing the Parliament to have its own package and manage the funds, cannot start to work without supportive regulations to the legislation.
The regulations, according to the commission vice-chairman and Deputy Speaker, had already been prepared, but the responsible officials had delayed their approval and subsequent gazetting. The experts’ committee that prepared the regulations comprises officials from the Prime Minister Office, Attorney General (AG), and Bunge.
After being gazetted, the regulations would allow the Parliament to operate independently and efficiently, as par its strategic corporate five-year plan-2009-2013.
“Currently, we depend on quarterly or regularly disturbed funds from the Treasury. You cannot have an independent Parliament without financial autonomy. We need to have own fund, which would be run by the Parliament instead of depending waiting for general disbursements,” said Ndugai, adding: “This is practiced in many countries across the world.”
Speaker of the National Assembly, who doubles as Chairperson of the Parliamentary Service Commission, Anne Makinda, said the Parliament had been facing difficulties in implementing its strategic corporate plan because of financial constraints.
She expressed hope that the approval of the regulations would help redress the problems, thus completely reform operations of the Parliament and deliver to the international standards.