EAC MPs miss salaries in cash crunch, as Burundi and South Sudan face expulsion

Employees of the East African Legislative Assembly are yet to get their June salaries, while members of parliament have gone three months without their full pay as the cash-strapped institution scrambles to put together its 2021 annual budget whose deadline passed last week.

“EALA members have not been paid their sitting allowances since March. We demand that the secretariat pays all staff including MPs.

EAC partner states need to honour their remittance obligations,” said Kenyan MP Abdikadir Aden during a heated debate at the EALA last week.

The EALA MPS earn a basic salary of $6,408 plus allowances that could amount to about $14,000. The 54 MPs are entitled to $160 each per sitting.

The EastAfrican has also learnt that EAC employees whose renewable contracts ended will no longer be allowed to perform their duties as they are now persona-non-grata at the Community.

The affected staff have also not been replaced following delays in holding of Council of Ministers assemblies as well as the Heads of States summits, creating a human resource crisis for the Secretariat.

While passing a resolution to extend the budget reading deadline to end of this month, the EAC legislators also debated the memberships of Burundi and South Sudan, who have fallen far behind in paying up their annual remittances to the EAC.

The furious MPs passed a resolution to expel the two countries; whose fate now lies in the hands of the EAC Council of Ministers.

Mr Aden moved the motion requiring the EAC leaders to consider invoking Article 143 and 146 that calls for suspension and expulsion, from the community, of members who default on their yearly payments.

The final resolution for sanctions against both countries will be determined by the EAC Heads of States.

South Sudan was recently suspended from the African Union over failure to pay its financial contributions.

“Although EAC Financial Rules and Regulations provide that the contributions from each Partner State shall be considered due on the 1st day of July in each financial year and shall be paid within the first six months of the financial year, Partner States continue to default and some remain in arrears throughout the financial year,” said Mr Aden, who is also the chairperson of the EALA General Purpose-Budget Committee.

Mr Aden, whose motion was seconded by Tanzania’s Abdullah Hasnuu Makame, said it was a shame that both countries continued to default without sanctions being declared against them.

All member countries are required to pay $8 million annually to the EAC as contributions. But by June 10, Burundi, which joined the EAC in 2007, had arrears spanning two years totalling $15 million.

South Sudan owes the community a total of $27.8 million. The country became the sixth member after joining the regional body in 2016.

Other EAC partner states that have arrears are Uganda with $1.6 million; Rwanda $2.7 million and Tanzania $4.2 million. Kenya is the only country out of the six members that has fully paid its annual contributions.

“Kenya has exceeded its yearly financial obligations to the EAC by over $1.9 million,” said Mr Aden.

EALA now wants the Council of Ministers to co-ordinate and ensure that Partner States remit the contributions to the Community Budget consistently by December 31 of each financial year as required by the EAC financial rules and regulations. “If one Partner State delays or withholds remittances, then there is a subsequent shortfall and repercussions.

This is unfortunately becoming the new normal and there are now activities being suspended owing to lack of funds,” said Mr Makame during the debate.

Further, the Assembly wants both the Council of Ministers chaired by Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta and the EAC Secretary-General Liberat Mfumukeko censured for failing to present the 2020/2021 financial year budgetary estimates before the June 30 deadline.

According to Article 4 of the Budget Act, 2008, the Council is supposed to submit to the Assembly the budget for the next financial year no later than April 30.

This forced EALA MPS to extend the period for the budget making process to July. Dr Biruta, who was sworn in the Assembly on June 28 as an ex-officio member by EALA speaker Martin Ngoga, said he was yet to receive the budget proposals.

“I can confirm that by June 29, the Council of Ministers was yet to receive the financial year 2020/2021 budgetary estimates from the EAC Secretary General as stipulated under the EAC Budget Act, 2008,” said Dr Biruta.

Secretary-General Mfumukeko, was at pains to explain why the budgetary estimates had not been presented to the Council of Ministers by October 2019 as per the procedures and regulations of the budget-making process.

“There is no money,” said Secretary-General Mfumukeko, adding, “If we can wait for the Council meeting, we can borrow money from the reserves and gratuity to pay by next week.”

On June 30, EALA rejected a request by Nshuti Manasseh of the EAC Council of Ministers to approve a vote on account of $29.4 million that had been presented through a letter from the secretary-general. They termed it an illegality.

The estimates were meant to support the normal operations of the EAC, as it awaits the tabling of proposals of budget estimates by the Council of Ministers.

Bad blood between Secretary-General Mfumukeko from Burundi, EALA speaker and Council of Ministers both from Rwanda, has been blamed for the budget impasse and now the Heads of State Summit has been called to intervene.

“I have been in parliament for more than 26 years and I have never witnessed a situation where a government fails to prepare its budget, which is the single-most important item for any organisation,” said Kenya’s Oburu Odinga.

By The EastAfrican

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