Government has finally taken a stand on the long standing cry of local council leaders to earn a monthly stipend. Government has said there is no money to remunerate the LCs and they would only improve their current remunerations as extra-gratia of Shs120, 000 per year to a figure they are yet to disclose.
According to the Electoral Commission, there are 60, 800 villages in the country and if government had committed to pay the LC1 chairpersons the Shs150,000 as proposed, they would spend about Shs9.1 billion per month on their salaries.
And paying the whole committee of 11 members per sub-county would mean spending at least over Shs100 billion per month. This may look enormous but there is a lot of financial haemorrhage in the country due to heavy spending.
Notwithstanding the country’s narrow financial base, but refusing to give LCs monthly pay will come with a cost. The affinity to ask for bribes before offering a service is going to increase, or worsen. Asking for money by LCs for a service, which in itself is a hallmark of corruption, is a growing trend at this grassroots level.
During his end of year communique at his country home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura District, President Museveni assured the country that the fight against corruption is a possible mission and can be dealt with in a very short time. Probably one way of doing this is by remunerating the LCs.
LCs provide the first level of recommendations to most of the offices at national levels. For instance, one has to get a letter from the LC to join higher institution of learning, join army, get a passport, and get bond or bail, among others, and they are fleecing the desperate citizenry in quest of documentation.
In so doing, many desperate people suffer extortion and the vice has continued unabated.
In some of the proposals provided by the President, he says the LCs should take opportunity in benefiting from the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), where they are the first recommenders. The temptation for LCs to consider themselves first is very high – in any case, they might end up being the only beneficiaries.
If government wants to win the fight against corrupt, it should begin at the level of LCs, by paying them a salary. It is at this point that they will stand to ask for accountability of public funds government remits to districts which cascades downwards to villages.