How much will be spent on UPDF snipers for MPs?
Following President Yoweri Museveni’s directive to Finance, Planning and Economic Development minister Matia Kasaija to facilitate MPs with snipper guards, questions have been as to how much this could cost the taxpayer.
In his June 29 letter, Museveni instructed Kasaija to provide with immediate effect finances for a fleet of new 4-wheel drive pick-ups with open carriage beds to carry “sharp shooter” soldiers to move to tighten security around MPs.
“I can assure you, they will not be targets for terrorists using Kalashnikovs. The sharpshooters themselves should get personal body armors and helmets that are bullet resistant,” Museveni wrote.
The directive follows a request last month by NRM MPs for their security to be beefed up following the June 8 murder of former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga.
Abiriga was gunned down with his bodyguard a few metres from his home at Kawanda in Wakiso district.
Museveni right away blamed Abiriga’s killing on NRM political opponents who were not happy with the scrapping of the Constitutional age limits.
In the run up to the December 21, 2017 controversial passing of the amendment, NRM MPs who were at the forefront of promoting the amendment were given police guards.
By June 18, some MPs and ministers had received additional guards from the elite Special Forces Command (SFC) that guards the president and his immediate family.
According to Museveni’s letter, these measures are being taken as government works on an upgrade of the Police’s technological capacity.
“I have therefore decided to protect the Members of Parliament as we await the putting in place of these systems since they are being singled out,” Museveni noted.
Museveni does not mention whether all the 454 MPs will be given the snipers.
On average, each double cabin pick-up truck costs Shs 130m which will translate to more than Shs 59bn.
Journalist Michael Wakabi put the cost at Shs 79bn which he believes can benefit the country if injected in Kiira Motors, the electric car project that has failed to take off.
In his argument, Wakabi says that if the government made such an investment for the cars to be produced locally, it can boost the economy since about 30 – 40 percent will be retained in the economy other than donating it to foreign car manufacturers.
Cissy Kagaba, the executive director of Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) said the directive makes MPs a liability to Ugandans.
“It’s unfortunate, selective security for politicians, we are taxed highly to offer security to MPs, the same MPs that get huge allowances, exempted themselves from tax. They are a liability,” Kagaba said.
She wonders why Museveni never issued similar directives at the height of last year’s killing of women in Nansana and Entebbe.
Parliament’s director of communications and public affairs, Chris Obore raised doubts on the possibility of all the MPs benefiting from the president’s directive.
The Ministry of Finance publicist Jim Mugunga could not respond to questions of the government’s planned expenditure because “it is too early.”
“MPs’ entitlements are often provided for by parliament. A security measure of this kind is not about vehicles ably but other necessities that may be worked out by the various stakeholders agencies. It’s too early in the process to speculate,” Mugunga said.
Museveni himself recognises that this measure is a wastage of resources, financial and man-power but he insists that the MPs should get the guards.