ARUA. A section of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) under their umbrella body, budget advocacy group (CSBAG) has threatened to mobilize the citizens of Uganda against their Members of Parliament (MPs) over what they term as ‘selfish salary increment.’

Their anger stems from the proposal by MPs to increase their allowances in the 2019/20 financial year by 39% totalling to the tune of 63.4 billion Ugandan shillings. This, the CSO’s argue, in the face of budget cuts for other critical areas that needed to be prioritized.

“Such a move really concerns us, for instance under the national medical stores (NMS) budgets for the supply of anti-malarial medicines (ACTs) to accredited facilities has been cut from UGX 10.2 billion from 2018/19 financial year to a paltry 4.7 billion in 2019/20. Such critical areas should instead be upscaled,” Mr Twaib Feni, the chief executive officer of Arua district NGO network said.

The group also stated that Arua regional referral hospital with a staffing gap of 22 positions that need an annual resource envelope of UGX 535.2million, Muni University, the only public University in the region with only 11% staffing should be given priorities ahead of the MPs salary increase.

The CSOs in their countrywide mobilization said whereas there is all need to remunerate the MPs well, the proposed increase compared to the resource envelope would be insensitive and a burden on the ordinary citizen.

The group has called on the government to institute the salary review commission to sort out the ever-increasing disparities in salaries across the board.

“Why should you have the UNRA scale, the URA scale, the NEMA scale etc? Why don’t we only have a U-scale across the board depending on one’s qualifications?” Mr Fred Abibo of Action for human rights and education initiative Uganda (AHEDI –UG) said.

The group in their press conference addressed at the social centre in Arua town on Monday warned of the failure by government to heed to their call.

They have threatened to rally the citizenry to write open letters and further publish the contacts of all the MPs to enable the citizens to call and demand a stop to the increase.
Asked why the group could not use other means like engaging the West Nile development group WENDA to sort such issues, Feni said West Nile MPs have never embraced the regional forum since they are always on the excuse that they are busy and any mutual agreement wasn’t feasible.

The CSOs have also predicted increased strikes across different sectors of public service if the proposed plan is implemented for the MPs.

In 2018, there was public outrage at the proposed mobile money and overhead tax (OTT) taxes levied by the government. CSOs issued strong statements condemning the government for overtaxing a sector that helped the poor and improves business transactions across the country.

The government was later forced to revise its 1% per cent levy on mobile money by half.