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Allowances increase unjustified, dishonest and greedy

18th December 2011
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Dr Benson Bana
Dr Kitila Mkumbo
Prof Mwesiga Baregu

The hiking of MPs’ sitting allowances from Sh 70,000 to Sh 200,000 per day has attracted an unprecedented heated debate so far as religious leaders, teachers and doctors are describing the decision as selfishly motivated.

Though Clerk to the National Assembly Dr. Thomas Kashilila denounced reports on the hiked sitting allowance, sources within the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) have confided to The Guardian on Sunday that he did so to defend the ‘system.’

The sources added that the Office of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) might be required to handle the issue before they chip in. As the debate rages on Dr Benson Bana, Prof Mwesiga Baregu and Dr Kitila Mkumbo have found space in their busy schedules to give their comments. Read them.

 

Time ripe to scrap sitting allowances regime

An MP gets Sh330,000 per day. That is unbelievable!

Dr Benson Bana

1. Members of Parliament in the Tanzanian context are categorically classified as political leaders in the public-cum- political service. As such, they deserve to get salaries and duty facilitating payments in the form of allowances and per-diems. However, these payments should be determined on the basis of the actual cost and the government’s ability to pay.

2. Duty facilitating allowances that have no controversies whatsoever include - but not limited to - travel costs between Parliament and their constituencies; cost for running an office; communication expenses (airtime); stationery and postage; employing staff (personal assistant and a driver).

Payments for expenses of this nature are justifiable beyond any shadow of doubt. It is legitimate for the MPs to receive such payments from the tax payers’ money in order to ensure that they carry out their mandatory responsibilities in a conducive atmosphere.

3. It is not at all in the public interest for the Parliamentary Service Commission and the government in its entirety to introduce forms of allowances that are crude, uncalled for and to a great extent tarnish, undermine and damage the reputation, integrity and credibility of our decisional, policy and law making authorities.

The so-called "Sitting Allowance" for Members of Parliament and public servants in Tanzania is in any sense and by any human resource management logic and standards unjustifiable.

There is no theory which shows a positive correlation between the performance of a Member of Parliament and the so-called "Sitting Allowance".

This type of allowance is undesirable and it is untenable in the eyes of the voter and the public in general. We do not need an IMF or World Bank expert to tell us that the "Sitting Allowance" for people in the political service and public service is an absolutely bad policy decision.

The sitting allowance in Tanzania is an endemic disease and a syndrome that we need to confront rigorously with vim and vigour for the betterment of our country. The sitting allowance regime must be abolished.

4. Members of Parliament in Tanzania are expected by the public to understand thoroughly the socio-economic realities of the country.

They must know that Tanzania is a poor country which is striving to attain equality, including equality in earnings and income. Income disparity is a source of hatred and incipient conflicts in society.

The increasing gap between the "haves" and "have nots" poses a threat to the country's desire to ensure better life for everybody. The MPs must know that Tanzania has a myriad of competing priorities whose financing depends on tax payers’ money and donor support.

The increase of sitting allowances from Sh70,000 per day to Sh200,000 per day is incomprehensible, unprecedented at the time when the toiling teachers are claiming about Sh49 billion from government to cater for their various entitlements. We do not need to increase the burden of the tax payers and donor fatigue.

5. Members of Parliament must refrain from isolating themselves from the rest of poor Tanzanians that they are claiming to represent. They must understand that as public leaders they are always in public scrutiny.

Their decisions are evaluated by the conscious and responsible citizenry; their patriotism is assessed by the informed public. Their conduct in public and private life is critically observed.

The decision of the Parliament to raise their daily sitting allowance to a rate that is more than the statutory minimum monthly salary for a public servant generates more heat than light.

The behaviour of Parliament as a political institution is being questioned by the Tanzanians, the peasants and workers as well as tax payers and even our Development Partners.

My sporadic non-empirical assessment following the decision of government to raise the sitting allowance shows that a way has been paved for the people to question the motive for such an unpopular decision, its political desirability and feasibility as well as its economic logic.

Indeed, our Parliament is at a cross-roads and it is somewhat in disrepute. This is not a healthy situation. Parliamentarians should think twice and re-consider their decision with a view to making a U-turn or reversing it altogether in order to regain the lost trust and glory in the eyes of the Tanzanian public.

6. Our respected and Honourables MPs should bear in mind that Parliament is not a place for money-making business or an institution for self-aggrandizement or personal interests. It is an institution which is entrusted by the public to execute its constitutional mandate bearing in mind the needs and interests of the people. It is not in the public interest to pay the so-called Sitting Allowance.

The decision is socially and politically wrong and sets a bad precedent. My free advice to the pro-sitting allowance honourable Members of Parliament is to consider stepping down with honour if at all they feel and believe that without the Sh 200,000 daily sitting allowance they would be unable to carry out their parliamentary duties, role and responsibilities Tanzania is not short of people with a sense of patriotism and who are committed enough to serve the nation diligently and who are not intrinsically and extrinsically motivated by monetary gain.

Members of Parliament must learn to refrain from lavish spending and in their heart they should carry the problems and concerns of poor Tanzanians they were elected to serve.

I have been made aware that on top of Sh 200,000 daily sitting allowance, they will also receive Sh80,000 per-diem and Sh50,000 for travel expenses daily, making a total of Sh 330,000 daily!!! Is this fair and desirable for the political servants of the poor Tanzanian people? Taking into account that many Tanzanians are in abject poverty this is by any standards unbelievable.

7. Members of Parliament in Tanzania serve at the pleasure of their political parties and indirectly the electorate. The Political Parties should educate their MPs on what is expected of them by the electorate and the public in general. Chama Cha Mapinduzi, the ruling party, which was elected by the majority Tanzanians, should come out clearly on the issue of sitting allowance.

It should compel its government to rescind the decision to raise the sitting allowance for the MPs. It should direct its government to scrap off the sitting allowance policy with immediate effect. I believe CCM has the ability to force government to reverse the decision. What I don't know is whether the party has the political will to make such a bold decision in the interest of the public and indeed the tax payers.

8. Whatever the case, we learn from the literature that a responsible citizen has a civic obligation to pay income tax consonant with the laws of the country. The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) should place a tax tag to all allowances that a Member of Parliament in Tanzania gets especially non-duty facilitating allowances. The salary for a Member of Parliament should not include fuel allowance for the days when s/he is attending parliamentary sessions in order to avoid double payment regarding fuel allowance.

9. The Government should consider establishing a statutory organ which will regulate the salaries and statutory benefits for Members of Parliament. The organ or authority should be responsible for the regulation and payment of expenses to Members of Parliament.

10. Some members of Parliament justify their big salaries and a plethora of allowances by claiming that they have a noble obligation to help people in their constituencies! It is important for our legislators to refrain from taking the role of a donor in their respective constituencies.

Instead they should mobilise people to work hard in order to generate money they need to make ends meet and cater for their requirements. They should not give "beggars" fish instead they should teach them how to fish.

Dr Benson Bana is Head of department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Dar es Salaam.

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Only ‘pea-brained human beings’ can defend MPs’ sitting allowances

Dr Kitila Mkumbo

The debate on allowances for members of parliament has been twisted and is getting ridiculously narrow. The argument all along has been to remove scrap the so called sitting allowances which are payable to civil servants while attending to their rightful duties. The debate has never been about whether these allowances should be increased or reduced.

In a way, members of parliament have been clever because, instead of continuing with the pressure to scrap sitting allowances, we are now talking about whether it is right or not to increase the allowances.

What is likely to happen now is that these allowances may not be increased, but they will certainly remain, and we will keep quiete pretending that we have won the battle.

Indeed, whether the allowances will be increased or not, the MPs will have won the battle by distorting the debate and by ensuring that the allowances will remain where they are. But how harmful are these allowances? Let us revisit the figures. According to analysis by one local NGO, the government pays about Sh506 billion to its employees in form of allowances, equivalent to 59 percent of government salaries.

The salary of members of parliament does not exceed Sh3 million a month. But their monthly ‘take home’ is about Sh7 million.

This means that the allowances paid to MPs is more than 60 percent of their salaries. The threshold of allowances for many ‘clever’ and functioning democracies in the world does not exceed 15 percent of the total payable salaries. The reason for limiting allowances is that they are generally non-taxable.

By paying hefty allowances you are institutionalising and legalising non-tax payment. Thus, MP sitting allowances are no just harmful in that they increase the income gap in our society, but they are particularly harmful because they are a form of institutionalised and legalised tax evasion, which, ideally, should be more punishable than treason.

Thus, some of us were expecting that, after a long cry, sitting allowances would be scrapped altogether. Alas, the debate has been twisted. We are now arguing whether or not MPs’ allowances should be increased.

We should not be side tracked. The discussion at hand is about getting rid of the sitting allowances because it is not proper to pay people for sitting in meetings doing their job that they are already paid for. And this is not just to MPs; it applies to public service generally. Some scatter-brained people have defended the increase in allowances on the basis that costs of living have increased in Dodoma and that MPs in East Africa are paid more handsomely than Tanzanian MPs.

The first argument is weak because it is not true that Dodoma is the most expensive city in Tanzania. Secondly, even if the cost of living were higher in Dodoma than in other cities, the high cost does not concern the MPs only.

If you are compensating MPs owing to increased cost of living in Dodoma, how are you going to compensating the sweating workers? The second argument is even more ridiculous and stupid. It is a stupid argument because it is stupidity to imitate stupid things!

Of course, in our case, it is understandable why the government will continue paying these allowances to MPs and public servants. It is a form of patronage to ensure pseudo political stability. If you pay MPs rightly they will do their right job of quizzing the government business, but you can silence them by paying dubious and unjustifiable allowances. Thus, to me, sitting allowance is a strategic psychological and political weapon by the government against MPs and other public servants.

We should not forget that these allowances in public service are paid to powerful people who matter in the decision making process and who already receive far better salaries than other employees. MPs know that they don’t deserve to be paid sitting allowances while executing their rightful duties but it is trade off. It is “you are eating and let’s eat” attitude.

In conclusion, I should state the obvious. Payment of sitting allowances to MPs and public servants is indefensible, not just because they are unfair and do not reflect our economic realities, but also because they are immoral and irresponsible. As such, only pea-brained human beings can defend them.

Dr Kitila Mkumbo is Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Education, School of Education, University of Dar es Salaam

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It is greed

By Prof Mwesiga Baregu

There are no justifiable grounds on which these increases can be justified except greed and dishonesty. Greed in the sense that there are more deserving and needy members of our society, such as teachers whose long-standing demands remain unaddressed.

They have put their employer on notice that they will take strike action. Have the MPs thought about the consequences of such action which maybe triggered by their move? It is dishonest because it has been done under a cloud of secrecy.

A House that feathers its nest in secrecy with public money does not deserve the trust and respect of Tanzanians. They should all renounce the increase and apologise to the nation.

 

Prof Mwesiga Baregu is a seasoned lecturer in Political Science and Public Administration currently lecturing at St Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT).

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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