‘We are against the disparities between MPs and Ministers’- Kablay
‘It’s news to us’ – Mmolotsi
MPs’ Constituency Allowance to be increased by 40%
Members of Parliament are said to have demanded a 25 percent salary hike for themselves, but the Opposition Chief Whip has distanced his MPs from the decision. The MPs have however been given four (4) percent salary hike which is expected to be effected once Parliament passes the Bill during the winter session in July this year. The Bill failed to see the light of day in the just-ended Budget session, as efforts by MPs to squeeze it through proved futile. The MPs wanted the Bill to be tabled before Parliament on a Certificate of Emergency. It was initially agreed that the Bill would be tabled before the President’s (Pensions and Retirement) Bill but things changed on Thursday night when the President’s Bill was tabled first and passed. Botswana Guardian is reliably informed that prior to agreeing to the four (4) percent proposed by government through the Ministry for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, MPs had proposed a 25 percent increase, 40 percent Constituency Allowance, Provision of transport for each Constituency and review of their Terminal Benefits.
Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Molale however awarded the MPs four (4) percent salary increase and 40 percent Constituency allowance. The minister is said to have explained during a General Assembly last week Thursday that there are no sufficient funds to meet all the demands by MPs. The minister according to MPs who attended the meeting indicated that as per the recommendations by MPs’ Rights and Privileges (Staff Welfare) Committee Chairman Haskins Nkaigwa, all the proposals would not be met but the remaining ones are not being thrown away.
The minister is said to have indicated that government would continue to engage with MPs on their proposals and grievances. Government Chief Whip Liakat Kably confirmed that MPs had proposed an increment of 25 percent. “The minister told us that he is not rejecting the proposals but due to funds constraints government would not be able to cover all our demands. This is why our long outstanding request for constituencies to be given motor vehicles and review of terminal benefits did not get the green light. I know people will start thinking that the 40 percent increase for Constituency allowance is too much but that money is not for us. It is for the constituents so that we could be able to take services to them,” stated Kably.
He expressed hope that the Bill will pass in July because no MP is against the increment. He reiterated the need for the review of their terminal benefits saying there shouldn’t be that much difference between MPs and ministers. “This is why people do all they can to be a minister because they know that they are better off as ministers. That is why we are against the disparities between MPs and ministers. “A minister can easily traverse through his or her constituency because s/he is covered in terms of transport while as an ordinary MP you have to rely on you own motor vehicle for transport and servicing the bank loan at the same time. At the end, you are left with nothing,” said Kably buttressing the point why there should be provision of motor vehicles for each of the 57 constituencies.
This is not the first time, MPs have requested to be given motor vehicles to undertake constituency assignments. The request has been there for some years and has always been rejected. Opposition Whip Wynter Mmolotsi said as opposition MPs they are not aware of the 25 percent increase. “We have not even been able to see that Bill. I’m just seeing some of the snippets of the Bill on social media which means some of our colleagues from the BDP could have it,” said Mmolotsi.
The Francistown MP said that all he knows that was presented at the general assembly by Nkaigwa’s committee was the provisions of motor vehicles for constituencies to help execute government duties. He said some constituencies execute such duties because there is no mode of transport and some of those constituencies are far from Gaborone and are vast. He said the recommendation also spoke about giving MPs allowances rather than the vehicles availed when Parliament is sitting- vehicles, which are only used to ferry an MP from his/house to Parliament and cannot do any other errands for an MP.
“The problem we have is that our colleagues would discuss things at their caucus then come and hijack us and associate us with such decisions. This would not be the first because BDP has in most instances taken decisions during their Parliamentary caucus then come and present such in Parliament. This is why we always oppose such business when brought to Parliament. We are not saying MPs are paid enough but what I am saying is that the 25 percent is news to us,” said Mmolotsi.
The outspoken legislator stated that as part of the three arms of government MPs are the lowly paid. He said an MP gets less than Permanent Secretaries and in some instances less than a Director. “We are on the same level with the Judiciary and Executive but there is huge disparity when it comes to salaries. The executive salary is a stand-alone so is the Judiciary but we are supposed to be in a three-tier system in the pay structure. We provide oversight and make laws but our remuneration does not reflect that,” he argued, dismissing claims that even opposition MPs support the 25 percent increase.
Kably has however castigated Mmolotsi saying the MPs across the aisle want the 25 percent increase. He said opposition MPs are disassociating themselves with such a proposal because they want to appear differently before the public while in actual fact they also support the increase.