Heated debate on sitting allowances for MPs featured prominently during the first five weeks of the ongoing parliamentary meeting in Dodoma with some legislators urging the government to scrap them as well as similar payments to civil servants.
But minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office for Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs shed light on government’s stand, saying such allowances could not be abolished randomly because relevant authorities had to deliberate on the matter before a decision is taken.
William Lukuvi said the government would look into the subject when implementing the recently launched Five-Year Development Plan that among things addresses the question of trimming down government expenditure.
The government launched the development plan in the current parliament session being held in the nation’s designated capital.
In due course Lukuvi’s answer was supported by Minister of State in President’s Office (Public Service Management) Hawa Ghasia who said there was no way the government could unilaterally heed the opposition’s call at present.
Meanwhile, when winding up the debate of the 2011/2012 National Budget Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Mustafa Mkullo said the effect of personnel allowances on the national budget was “very minimal.”
He said while the budget for 2011/2012 stands at Sh13.5 trillion, personnel allowances accounted for some Sh352.74 billion of which Sh25.65 is sitting allowances for public servants including sitting allowances for MPs alone, amounting to Sh4.92 billion.
Overall, MPs from Chadema and NCCR- Mageuzi have identified themselves as anti- allowances campaigners but their crusade hit a snag in the House with legislators from the ruling party, and Chadema’s John Chibuda, actually urging for extra payment, and insisting the sitting allowances to stay intact.
The real picture is that an MP pockets Sh70,000 as sitting allowance everyday when Parliament is in session, which translates into Sh24,500,000 daily as Tanzania’s parliament has a total of 350 legislators.
Imagine how much it costs the nation to pay the MPs during their present Budget Parliament session that lasts for 62 days. Every MP also pockets another Sh80,000 as per diem..
The per diems and sitting allowances are also paid to MPs whenever the Parliamentary Standing Committees convene in Dar es Salaam ahead of the Parliamentary sessions in Dodoma. The Parliamentary committees meet for over 40 days while the Parliament convenes for 80 days per year.
The MP’s salary is Sh7.3 million out of which Sh1million is for Constituency while Sh2 million is for fuel, Sh2.3 million is pre-tax salary while Sh3 million is dished out for running the MP’s office, including paying the driver.
Why legislators defend allowances
Minister Ghasia recently said in a TV interview that nearly all the MPs have signed agreements for Sh200 million-loan each, payable in five years, with CRDB Bank under the guarantee of the government.
According to the minister, all the allowances that some MPs wanted to be scrapped are included in the loan. She said almost the whole salary of an MP goes into servicing the debt, a factor that propels MPs to survive on allowances.
Ghasia described MPs calling for the abolition of sitting allowances as mere ‘comedians ’since they were well aware that their allowances are included in the CRDB Bank loans they have taken.
Some CCM legislators are defending the extra-payments saying the money helps them meet certain financial requirements in the constituencies. But opposition MPs want allowances removed as a strategy to cut down government expenditure.