Sunday, November 13, 2022

Last week while on the floor, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP), and MP Nyendo-Mukungwe in Masaka district, Mathias Mpuuga made bogus lamentations that MPs are saddled with providing public services like healthcare, education, water, street lighting, bridge and road construction otherwise a responsibility of government.

“The job of being an MP is now a burden than a service because MPs have taken on the role of government. These MPs are building maternity wards and paying for social services,” Mpuuga was quoted lamenting. Mpuuga then dejectedly moaned “If we can stand together and demand that services are delivered, and that the money we appropriate is used properly, you will enjoy your job and not run away from your constituencies. If you decide to cover for your party you will continue suffering, and please die silently.” 

Mpuuga’s lamentations came against yet unverified reports that MPs have increased their take home perks disguised as pension, which enlisted Speaker Anita Annet Among’s rebuke to a section of the media referring them as  “unable to understand issues of MPs’ pay” and misleading the public. 

While we still practice a weak and dysfunctional party system, MPs ought to remember that they campaigned on respective party platforms which they should uphold, enshrine in the NDP and annual budgets, and where issues are at odds with constituents’ interests, they should seek readjustments for possible inclusion through their caucuses. It is necessary to underscore that an MP however vocal, cannot on their own achieve much as the examples of Odonga Otto, Theodore Sekikubo, Mohammed Nsereko, and Saalamu Musumba among others ably demonstrate. It’s simply an adventurer’s ego errand.

Feeding at the public trough, while the broader national economy is in turmoil of uncertainties, yet at parliament the bubble just carries on is something MPs must reflect on. President Yoweri Museveni is on record severally cautioning MPs from both sides of the aisle not to over commit personal money in uncontrollable and unregulated fund-raisings for projects that are funded from public expenditure like public schools, health facilities and roads. He has told them to instead ensure better priority setting, adequate funding, supervision and monitoring of public projects for effective implementation and value-for-money’s worth.

The direct demand on MPs by their constituents has been on the rise fueled by perceptions that MPs are off-loading on the rest of society after they publicly clamoured for exceptionally fat and multiple perks claiming that they play important roles in our society. Most MPs while campaign trails usually make pledges outside their party manifesto and continue to give the false impression they are powerful in total disregard of government policies and procedures hence finding themselves in untenable positions.

And so many had hoped that MPs’ hefty pay rises over the years would sufficiently alleviate their poverty so that they can concentrate on parliamentary duties instead of running shoddy side errands. MPs should work through legislation, budget appropriation and policy supervision to service their constituents rather than injecting personal resources, otherwise they will continue to be accosted over the daily bread and butter issues.

The assertions by Mpuuga and ilk, is more of a false claim that they’re the ones offering critical public services when it isn’t their responsibility. They are simply pretenders seeking relevance in areas not theirs, and on a running anecdote of self-inflicted egos because the demons in elective politics perhaps make them abandon their party election manifestoes. 

According to Mpuuga, MPs have had to step in allegedly because government has either abdicated or failed in its responsibilities. It’s dangerous to leave this false self-prophesy to pass unchallenged particularly when MPs seek to use this to allocate themselves more public money under the guise of delivering public service to their constituents when many are simply seeking self-aggrandisement including through dubious means.

Today, unlike three decades ago ,MPs have so much more resources and from multiple sources than their predecessors in all past parliaments could ever dream of-money, physical infrastructure, education, research facilities, radio, television, and mobile communication technologies which offer them comfort at their fingers without the need to visit places in person.

Boisterous as many MPs wont the public to believe they are substituting government efforts, none of them, even the most wealthy has resources or infrastructure to deliver let alone to individually effectively monitor public services in their respective constituencies. And here’s the scary bit, elected as all of them are, many actually ought to have no business anywhere near the parliament of Uganda where legislation, checking executive and amplifying the needs of constituents should be the main goal.

Therefore, in an attempt to appear relevant, they have assumed the roles of immediate caregivers paying tuition, medical bills and burial expenses. Many, probably prior to running for parliament had never dreamt of serving in a public office. However, to their credit built own profiles as first timers in their families having climbed from small villages and schools which hasn’t come easy, and yet all could end in a twinkle of an eye.