President Jakaya Kikwete

As members of parliament began receiving 200,000/- in new allowances, up from the previous 70,000/-, the State House in Dar es Salaam refuted reports that President Jakaya Kikwete has endorsed them.

A statement issued yesterday said the President’s stand on the new MP allowances, which he has stated previously, was his advice to the MPs to use the current parliamentary meetings to carefully review the matter.

It said while President Kikwete admits to the need to review MPs’ sitting allowances, he had cautioned them to use wisdom and prudence in handling the issue.

“President Kikwete’s directive on the MPs’ allowances is very clear…there is no place showing that he has approved the sitting allowances,” read part of the statement.

However the Speaker of the National Assembly Anna Makinda announcing the official position on the new allowances at a press briefing in Dodoma yesterday reiterated that they had the blessings of President Jakaya Kikwete.

“We got the President’s blessings…to pay the MPs the new allowances,” she said.

“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.

She added: “An MP, who fails to attend the session or sign the register, will not get the allowance.’’

She dismissed as unfounded assertions that MPs will be paid the new sitting allowance in lump sum — that’s receive the money regardless of whether they attend a parliamentary session or not.

Defending the increase from 70, 000/- to 200,000/-, Makinda described the amount as “peanuts”, citing the high cost of living and what she said were the lawmakers’ pressing needs.

She explained that MPs have numerous responsibilities (personal and in their constituencies) which can hardly be accomplished with the ‘meagre’ salaries and allowances they get.

“Our voters in the constituencies have so many problems, which MPs cannot just neglect…they have to support their people. There are things at the constituency level, which need, not only moral support but also financial and material support from the MPs,” she observed.

“At times,” she said, “some MPs have to borrow money to refuel their vehicles. All this is because of the multiple responsibilities they have.”

According to her, the increase in allowances was not a new phenomenon, as the Parliament copied a government circular issued in 2010 which specifies the standards for setting up allowances and other packages for public leaders.

“So, these standards are also applied by the government departments. It’s not a new system…that’s why we (the Parliament) thought that it is worth adopting the same in raising the allowances paid to MPs,” she clarified.

The new sitting allowances for MPs has been fiercely criticized by people of different walks of life, who said it is too high, especially when considering the economic difficulties facing the country.

At one time, the Parliamentary Services Commission halted payment of the new allowances pending the president’s approval.

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.

After noting that Speaker of the National Assembly and the PM had blessed the review, members of the public came out in the open saying the government has not been fair to other workers and groups of people in the country.

They said the government’s decision to approve the new allowances for lawmakers may trigger workers in other sectors to demand the same and probably paralyse the economy at some point.

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.

“Can you imagine what would happen if the police force staged a strike, or if drivers, public servants and teachers did the same?” he asked.

He said the government must avoid pouring fuel on the fire that is already burning.

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.

He said it was an irresponsible decision which violated all ethical norms. “We should not debate further while leaving doctors crying and our patients dying.”

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.

The government needs to be smart in decision making, he said, specifically when addressing issues related to strikes and demonstrations by avoiding isolating other groups that are important in the community.

“Responsiveness must not be determined by the kind of groups you serve. The government must be responsible and answerable to every group in the community regardless of what and where they are,” Mbegu said.

Source The Guardian



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