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EXCLUSIVE: Shock as EALA MPs Claim $2m ‘Sitting Allowances’ for Meetings Held Virtually

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The rate at which East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) MPs are draining the East Africa Community (EAC) budget is alarming, with the lawmakers now demanding payment of a staggering $2m for meetings held via video-conference.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, EAC, in March 2020, called off all its meetings – statutory or not – until the pandemic was contained.

EAC Secretary General Ambassador Libérat Mfumukeko said given the nature of EAC work which involves travel, and the mode of delivery through meetings, conferences, “There is ample evidence that such gatherings can increase the risk of transmission of infectious diseases including Covid-19”.

The MPs returned to their respective countries where they held a few video conferences.

ChimpReports has now learned that between March and August 2020, EALA MPs have claimed over $2 million for meetings held virtually; either by video-conference from the EAC Ministries of their capitals or by Zoom from their living rooms.

For such meetings each claims $400 of Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA) and $160 of sitting allowance, totaling to $560.  This is the amount of money the MPs are entitled to while conducting business in Arusha, Tanzania.

Additionally, each MP is entitled to a monthly salary of over $6,000.

Officials told ChimpReports that MPs were already piling pressure on the secretariat to pay this money, a move that could sink EAC into a huge debt especially at a time partner states are struggling to meet their annual financial obligations to the community.

Yet, according to the EAC Financial Rules and Regulations, DSA is payable only when people travel outside their usual duty station.

“Now, imagine an MP living a neighborhood of Kampala, going to the Uganda Ministry of EAC Affairs for a Video Conference meeting or just staying at home for a Zoom meeting and claiming $560 per day. This is absolutely unfair and unacceptable to the EAC taxpayer,” said a source at EALA who preferred anonymity to speak freely.

An investigation by ChimpReports indicates that EALA MPs are very hungry for DSA and sitting allowances because all of them with a few exceptions committed 100 percent of their salaries in loans at KCB and CRDB Banks.

Many MPs have even committed their gratuity on top of their salaries gratuity, leaving them destitute. Their survival is hinged on siting allowances.

Bigger problem

The fight over $2m is said to be symptomatic of the growing financial indiscipline at EALA over the last three years.

For example, when there’s no liquidity, MPs still convene meetings and plenary sessions.

The current assembly extended their plenary sessions to 21 days every month against 14 days of the previous assembly. This was seen as a strategy by MPs to make more money from allowances.

As a consequence, auditors revealed, the 54 EALA MPs and the very small staff of EALA consume close to 40 percent of the EAC budget, leaving the other 2 organs (Secretariat and EACJ) and 9 institutions (who achieve development projects) with the remaining 60 percent.

Since last year EALA has borrowed over $2 million from the EAC General Reserve Fund and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission to pay their salaries, DSA and allowances.

Auditors say EALA has been the only EAC structure to regularly lack funds to pay salaries to their staff.

Evidence

In a letter dated August 20, 2020, EALA Speaker Martin Ngoga wrote to the Secretariat seeking authority to borrow $1,684, 370 “from the EAC General Reserve Account and funds received by the Inter-University Council for East Africa and Lake Victoria Basin Commission as arrears to settle the outstanding balance of arrears to members.”

Ngoga said the “borrowed funds will be settled when the Partner States disburse their outstanding contribution for FY 2019/2020 and not from Partner States’ contribution for FY 2020/2021.”

Ngoga’s letter

The EALA Commission had already directed the Office of the Clerk to partially settle to a tune of $590,780 out of $679,651 recently received from Burundi (as part of the outstanding contributions for FY 2019/20) to offset the MPs’ daily subsistence allowance arrears and the remaining $106,871 to partially settle other outstanding obligations.”

As of late August, the Office of the Clerk, according to Ngoga, had “partially settled $584,550 as part of MPs’ arrears arising from allowances as directed by the EALA Commission for meetings held from March –June, 2020.”

This development is expected to unsettle EAC leaders especially President John Pombe Magufuli who has since warned against extravagance.

The Audit Commission report signed in December 2019 pinned down EALA, over $6 million worth of expenditures are not accounted for.

The report indicated that MPs refused to provide evidence (original boarding passes, stamps in their passports, etc) which would help justify the money they have been receiving in DSA, road transport and other allowances.



Source – chimpreports.com

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Museveni: We Don’t Encourage Export of Labour

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President Museveni has urged Ugandans to exploit the available resources to create jobs and stem labour export.

Uganda does not encourage the export of human labour resource abroad,” said Museveni on Saturday, April 10.

”Uganda is a very rich country. It is bad to be poor. What matters is to have attitude change among our people and to put the available resources into use to create jobs,” he emphasized.

 Museveni said Uganda should emulate countries like South Korea and Japan whose nationals do not seek for jobs outside their countries.

The President was meeting the Regional Director of International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mohammed Abdiker in charge of East and the Horn of Africa who was accompanied by the UN Resident Coordinator, Rosa Malango.

Uganda has one of the highest population growth rates globally with more than 78% of its population below 30 years.

This is the productive age of many people but while the labour force is increasing with each passing year, the labour market is actually shrinking rendering it incapable of accommodating the 500,000 young Ugandans that join the labour market annually.

This makes labour export the most feasible alternative way out of this unemployment conundrum.

Uganda adopted the externalization of labour in 2005 as a measure to shed off its excess and abundant labour force though this policy has culminated into an industry that is lucrative but unregulated hence the making the need for regulatory processes more needed today than ever before.

Ugandan women were recently warned against the increasing number of criminal gangs in Kampala city who allegedly recruit girls on the streets promising them ‘juicy jobs in Malaysia and other East Asian countries and instead sell them into forced prostitution.

Remittances to Uganda have increased from $ 1.6 billion (Sh4.6 trillion) in 2016, to $ 2.0bn (Sh7 trillion in 2017 and they can only go higher as the labour export industry is regulated and formalized so that the nation can gain from the labour and exploits of her citizens.

Meanwhile, Museveni and Malango discussed the current political situation in the region including Somalia, South Sudan and the DRC.

During the meeting that was held at Independence Grounds at Kololo, the President said the political solution to Somalia was to senstize the nationals about the weaknesses of fronting issues of identity including tribal and religion as opposed to people’s common interests to achieve Socia-economic transformation, prosperity and political stability.

Mr. Mohammed Abdiker thanked the President for his tremendous input on two fronts mainly; fighting for the political stability of Somalia and South Sudan and combating Covid-19 pandemic.

He thanked the President for his support to IOM programmes on disaster response and refugees.

The post Museveni: We Don’t Encourage Export of Labour first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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Opposition sidelined as Benin votes in presidential election | Elections News

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With most rivals in exile or sidelined, Benin’s President Patrice Talon looks set to win a second term in office.

Voters in Benin are set to cast their ballots in a presidential election on Sunday, days after deadly protests against President Patrice Talon, who is heavily favoured to win a second term.

Talon, a cotton magnate first elected in 2016, faces off against two little-known rivals, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.

Opponents accuse the 62-year-old Talon of undermining Benin’s vibrant multi-party democracy by sidelining most of his main opponents.

Protests in several cities last week turned violent. At least two people died in the central city of Save when troops on Thursday fired tear gas and live rounds to break up protesters who had blocked a major highway. Five others were wounded.

In the commercial capital Cotonou, several people said they feared violence on election day.

“The events of these last days scare me,” said Christophe Dossou, a student. “I prefer to remain cautious.”

Benin’s President Patrice Talon denies targeting his opponents [File: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters]

Among the protesters’ complaints are Talon’s U-turn on a pledge he made as a candidate in 2016 to serve only one term, and changes he pushed through to election laws that he said were aimed at streamlining unwieldy government institutions. In practice, those reforms resulted in total control of parliament by Talon’s supporters and the exclusion of leading opponents from the presidential race.

One opposition leader Reckya Madougou was detained last month on accusations of plotting to disrupt the election, a charge her lawyer says is fabricated.

A judge from a special economic crimes court created by Talon also fled the country last week after denouncing political pressure to make rulings against the president’s critics, including the decision to detain Madougou.

Meanwhile, businessman Sebastien Ajavon, who came third in the 2016 presidential poll, was convicted of drug trafficking in 2018 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, while another potential rival, ex-finance minister Komi Koutche, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement. Ajavon lives in exile in France, while Koutche lives in Washington, DC.

Talon denies targeting his opponents.

He has campaigned on his economic record, which includes improvements to key infrastructure such as roads, water and energy supplies.

Soldiers stand in line to block supporters of the incumbent president during an electoral campaign rally at Abomey-Calavi, on April 9, 2021 [Pius Utomi Ekpei/ AFP]

Benin, a country of about 12 million people, became Africa’s top cotton exporter in 2018 and recorded average annual gross domestic product growth of over 5 percent before the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we did was not easy,” Talon said at one of his final campaign rallies on Friday. “We are strong and we know how to get it done.”

He said he expects a “knock-out victory” for which there would be no need for a runoff vote.

The United States, German, French and Dutch embassies as well as the European Union delegation in Benin all called on Friday for calm and for the vote to go ahead in a free and transparent manner.

“We urge all parties to express their perspectives peacefully,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “We urge the electoral institutions and courts overseeing these processes and verifying these results to ensure these elections are conducted freely, fairly, and transparently.”

Results are expected to be announced on Monday or Tuesday.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Trucks Traveling to Juba Get Military Escort

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Government of Southern Sudan has agreed to provide full military security and safety to all road users including Ugandan cargo truck drivers plying Juba – Nimule highway starting this week.

This was reached during a meeting between South Sudan government and Ugandan authorities on Friday at Elegu One-stop Border point in Amuru district, Northern Uganda.

High level security officials from both countries met to deliberate on the deteriorating security along major highways in South Sudan in which eight Ugandan truck drivers have been shot dead by armed men in the past weeks.

The Sudanese high-level delegation was led by the country’s Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Johnson Juma, Inspector General of Police, Gen. Majak Akech, and Director-General of Internal Security, Gen. Akol Khor.

The Deputy Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority, Hon. Africano Mande was also present and four East African Ambassadors.

On the other side, Uganda’s delegation was led by Police Operations Director AIGP Edward Ochom, Director Crime Intelligence Col. Damulira among others high ranking officers.

“We have successively concluded our two days meetings with Ugandan authorities including the drivers who later agreed to resume the normal operation,” said South Sudan authorities.

“And as government, we assure them of full security on the major highways in the Republic of South Sudan and removal of the illegal road blocks and check-points for easy movement of trucks to Juba and others towns within the country.”

Last week, truck drivers from across the East African region protested the increasing insecurity in South Sudan, illegal taxes and also demanded for compensation of their deceased colleagues.

They parked their trucks at Elegu border and demanded for both governments to intervene before the situation deteriorates further.

In regards to compensation, Sudanese authorities agreed to pay for the victims but said that the process will be discussed through the foreign ministries of the two countries.

Although traders had also requested Ugandan authorities and in this case the UPDF to escort their goods to South Sudan, Lt.Col Deo Akiki said that “this can’t be a decision of UPDF. South Sudan is a sovereign State, therefore anything done on its territory at the moment has to be a bilateral matter beyond the two forces. It’s a government to government affair.”

ChimpReports understands that some trucks on Saturday left Elegu border for Juba under full security escort.

The post Trucks Traveling to Juba Get Military Escort first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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