Following Monday’s award of medals to members of the ninth and earlier parliaments, the medal recipients were yesterday paid Shs 581m in transport refund.
The medals alone cost Shs 600m, minus the venue, Serena Conference Centre, food, refreshments and entertainment, among other costs. The Observer has learnt that each of the 1,162 medalists was given Shs 500,000 in transport refund. The money was picked yesterday from parliament’s east committee room.
According to sources, the money was drawn from the president’s office after many of the medalists questioned the relevance of medals without a cash incentive. At the awards ceremony on Monday, former Samia-Bugwe South MP Aggrey Awori led the campaign for a financial reward to go with the medal.
Museveni, in his speech, promised to give parliament’s pension scheme a grant to take care of the former MPs or their descendants. Under the Parliamentary Pension Act 2007, the scheme currently does not cover MPs who served before July 2001.
“We can’t fail to look after 1,000 people. How many civil servants are we looking after? They are tens of thousands; the teachers alone are 200,000, so how can we fail to look after people who made a small contribution to our independence?” Museveni said.
Every month a former MP gets a pension cheque of Shs 788,000 and if the president delivers on his pledge to pay every former MP, then government will spend Shs 788m every month.
Some of the awardees were probably returning to the environs of the parliamentary buildings for the first time in many decades. Two such former MPs were S.G Muduku and Ezron R Bwambale who represented Bugisu North West and Toro South respectively in the 1961 and 1962 parliaments.
Because of their advanced age, some came in wheelchairs while others were helped by relatives to walk. Inside the conference hall, both current and former MPs exchanged pleasantries – the generational gap was evident, and like a grandchild to a grandfather, some current MPs sought useful tips from their elders.
“It was a great opportunity for us to interact with some of the celebrated legislators who we have been hearing about but had never met, and they have been guiding us on how we can perform better,” said Kilak MP Gilbert Olanya.
Some of the old parliamentarians took swipes at the current MPs.
“Parliament has lost its independence, it is unfortunate that MPs have reduced themselves to taking decisions that are not theirs; unresearched decisions, thus rendering parliament useless,” said Simon Ross Euku who represented Kalaki county in the 8th parliament.
Former first son Wasswa Lule, who represented Lubaga North in the Constituent Assembly and the 6th parliament, was also critical. In the sixth parliament (1996–2001), Lule told journalists, MPs earned about Shs 750,000 each, but were content and gave their best to the country.
Outside the conference centre, police officers readied themselves for a presidential guard of honour parade only to be scattered by the midmorning downpour moments before President Museveni’s arrival.
The police brass band was the first to run off the parade and took shelter under the conference centre’s balcony. As the rains intensified, the parade collapsed altogether.
Much as Museveni hailed the event as a great reunion of all Uganda’s post-independence parliaments, many opposition politicians skipped it. The most conspicuous absentees included Kizza Besigye, Mugisha Muntu, Norbert Mao, Miria Matembe and Hope Mwesigye, among others, who were invited to the ceremony.
Conspicuously missing on the medalists’ list was former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi who organizers said had received his medal much earlier. Mbabazi served in all the post-1986 parliaments, holding key government positions as attorney general and prime minister. He fell out with the government after expressing interest in the presidency.
Speaking on behalf of the national honours and awards chancery, Gen Elly Tumwine apologized for the omissions brought about by some records getting lost or being mismanaged.
He said this particular category of medals under the Presidential Honours and Awards Act is given to people in recognition of their outstanding service over the 50 years of Uganda’s independence.