In Africa, if there is one convergence point for the Members of Parliament (MPs), it is the unending love for cars. They may differ in terms of political ideology and everything else, but when it is time to get cars, they suddenly operate in tremendous unison, to gratify their desires for the luxuries of life at the expense of the taxpayer.
Each year, there are always reports of how millions of money are spent on satisfying the desires of the MPs, and the cars are bought for them. There is no regard for other pressing matters like health care, service delivery, cutting expenditure to save the fiscus and other related matters. What will be of importance to them is to secure the cars.
Getting these luxury cars is done at the expense of the taxpayer. It is the taxpayer who gets to benefit these MPs while the economy remains stuck and mired in a quagmire. It's a common phenomenon across the whole continent, and highlights how many governments are incompetent and how they acutely suffer from not prioritizing what matters.
In 2017, Shs45 billion was availed for the Ugandan lawmakers to get luxury cars for their constituency travels. Each of the 499 lawmakers got an additional Shs100 million to acquire these cars. This was after there had been anger in 2016 over a plan by the government to pay members of parliament (MPs) up to Sh150m each to buy new vehicles. Skip some of the lawmakers in dishing out money for these purposes and their anger will be more fierce than the anger they would express over the poor state of affairs in Uganda.
The sad thing is that it is the taxpayer who has to fund this extravagant, unnecessary way of governance. It is the taxpayer who bears the brunt of such lavish lifestyles craved for by the MPs. In 2017 it was reported that getting additional cars for MPs in Uganda would raise the taxpayers' expenditure on cars for MPs from about Shs40b (Shs103m each) in the 9th Parliament to nearly Shs115b in the 10th Parliament.
Zimbabwe has been faced with this problem. The MPs in Zimbabwe may stand on different political tickets, but when it comes to getting money for cars, they ensure it is done. They apply all the pressure towards the treasury. They desire the cars. They live for the cars. In September this year, treasury had to make the good choice of not purchasing cars for MPs in order to fight the cholera outbreak that had ravaged the country.
$15 million had been set to purchase cars for the MPs but Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube refused to hand out this money, diverting it towards fighting cholera. All in all, $20 million was meant to get cars for the new legislators. As reported by NewsDay, cabinet ministers in Zimbabwe are entitled to top-of-the-range Mercedes-Benz sedans, Range Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers. Deputy ministers are entitled to the latest all-terrain Mazda BT50s as well as Mercedes-Benz sedans.
In South Sudan, $16 million was spent on acquiring cars for MPs this year. The MPs received a government loan of $40,000 each to buy cars for themselves and this sparked public outrage. The MPs had voted to extend Salva Kiir's term to 2021, and the speculation was that this move was an effort to reward the MPs. The overwhelming feeling in South Sudan was that this is money which could have been used for meaningful development projects. The government denied that they were wastefully spending money, but in essence, these are clear examples of wasteful spending by African governments.
The insatiable love for cars exhibited by the politicians in Africa is a clear example of how serious and pressing matters are not prioritized, and thus the lives of the citizens are not improved. It is the taxpayer who continues to suffer as they have to fund this wasteful culture shown by the MPs.
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Header Image: The Zimbabwe Mail