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Unacceptable! Court blocks MPs from increasing their pay

Supreme Court judges in a sitting recently. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – The Supreme Court has Thursday 25 ordered that Members of Parliament cannot increase their emoluments unless the executive moves a motion.

The justices led by Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said that the bill or motion for increasing the emoluments that would result into a charge on the consolidated fund must be brought on behalf of the government and not the Parliamentary Commission.

Other justices are Stella Arach-Amoko, Rubby Opio-Aweri, Faith Mwondha, Paul Mugamba, Augustine Nshimye and Jotham Tumwesigye.

The judges made the order and dismissed an appeal in which the Parliamentary Commission was challenging the Constitutional Court declaration that Section 5 of the Parliamentary (Remuneration of Members of Parliament) Act is unconstitutional.

In 2011, peasant farmer Wilson Mwesigye petitioned the Constitutional Court against the Parliamentary Commission and Attorney General accusing parliament of increasing their emoluments illegally.

In April this year, the lawmakers in the 10th Parliament, have increased their allowances by 39 per cent and that of parliamentary staff by 15 per cent, citing the increasing cost of living.

The increase in the MPs’ allowances, which are tax-exempt, will raise the spending on their pay by Shs63.46b in the 2019/20 Financial Year, up from the current Shs497.8b.

Court ordered that the Parliamentary Commission must follow the procedure because there is one financial authority in charge of revenues and expenditure even though expenditure must be authorized by Parliament.

“The Constitutional Court found that much as Parliament can amend by resolution under Section 5 of the Act, the schedule to the Act which contains the emoluments of Members of Parliament, such resolution must be brought on behalf of the government to Parliament. We agree with this finding,” held the judges while dismissing with costs an appeal in which the Parliamentary Commission had sought to overturn a 2016 Constitutional Court decision.

The highest appellate court ordered that anybody who wants to create a charge on the consolidated fund must first inform the government.

The Supreme Court upheld a decision of the Constitutional Court held that the motion or bill that is subject of the emoluments of MPs must be brought not on behalf of the Parliamentary Commission but on behalf of the government.

“We know that the head of government which would mean that the government, in this case, refers to the executive arm of government. Much as Parliament is constitutionally empowered to determine the emoluments of its members, the bill or motion or resolution which is the subject of such emoluments must originate from the government, and parliament would then be empowered to consider the same and determine the emoluments of MPs,” the court ruled.

The Supreme Court judges ruled that the criticism leveled against the Constitutional Court that Parliament segregated Article 93 from the other provisions of the Constitution is baseless.

“The Constitutional Court held and rightly so in our view, that the emoluments of MPS are a charge on the consolidated fund and therefore Article 85 and 93 of the Constitution must be read together to achieve a harmonious reading of the Constitution which allows both provisions to take effect and achieve the greater good of an accountable government,” the judges ruled.

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