A total of 529 Members of Parliament (MPs) in Uganda have received $56,500 each to buy new cars amidt economic crisis made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
On June 18, President Yoweri Museveni announced renewed restrictions on schools, churches and bars as part of his government’s plan to curb the rising cases of Covid-19 infection. However, economists have argued that this move has further worsened the country’s shaky economy.
Uganda, a country of 45 million people, has recorded 91,710 COVID-19 cases and 2,496 deaths. The actual totals are believed to be much higher. Only a few thousand samples are tested daily. Only about one million people have been vaccinated so far
Despite the rise in covid-19 cases and the pressure on the already fragile health and economic sector, the present government has now lavished $30 million on its lawmakers.
“It is unacceptable for a government to buy luxuries to a small group in parliament, who continue to receive monthly pay of more than 30 million shillings (about $8,000) while the larger population are unable to feed themselves,” said Anet Nana Namata, an active human rights defender and executive director of the Union of Human Rights Defenders Uganda.
John Damba a school supplies trader at the Nakawa Market in the country Capital Kampala told a TwentyTen correspondent that he felt the money could have been used to improve the country’s testing facilities and provide more vaccines.
“If this lockdown should end, we must all get the vaccines. It is shameful that the government is now buying cars rather than helping the people,” Damba said.
Confronted with mounting public anger, government spokesman Ofwono Opondo defended the decision as being in line with a time-honoured tradition.
“It is to facilitate their engagement with the electorate. In any case, the civil society organisations have been part of the budgeting processes and knew long time the MPs were to get money to buy cars,” he said.