Legislators on the Defence and Internal Affairs committee have tasked the Defence ministry to explain discrepancies in the payment of soldiers’ salaries.
Ntoroko County MP, Ibanda Rwemulikya raised the matter during a meeting between the MPs and Defence officials, led by Minister Adolf Mwesige held today.
Mwesige had appeared before the committee to defend the ministry’s 2017/2018 budget totaling Ugx 1.39 trillion shillings.
During the discussions, Rwemulikya noted that the salaries of low ranking officers, from Privates, Lance Corporals, Corporals and Sergeants are still considerably low.
Rwemulikya noted that low ranking soldiers are the ones mainly deployed in war zones, risking their lives, yet they are paid meager resources.
Mwesige, in response explained that the army council had sat and resolved to increase salaries of the soldiers across the body.
The Minister however said this would not be possible in the 2017/2018 financial year due to lack of funding, hence listing the Ugx 87 billion as unfunded priorities.
Mwesige further stated that they first require Ugx 43 billion for the start to cater for the lower ranked officers, to be able to raise the salary to that of a Grade 3 teacher.
During the meeting, there was drama after two opposition MPs, Hassan Kaps Fungaroo and Mohammed Kivumbi resurrected debate on the composition of top army officials.
The duo noted that the top ranked officials were from one region of the country, sparking sharp debate from both sides, as the legislators exchanged words with the Defence officials.
Kivumbi read out a list of names of top army officers in the structure, prompting State Minister of Defence, Colonel (Rtd) Okello Engola to protest.
Engola tasked the MPs to scrutinize the full list of all army officials and also point out names of those from other regions.
The committee chairperson, Judith Nabakooba tried to call the MPs to order however they were defiant and demanded an explanation from the Minister.
Mwesige, in response, pleaded with the MPs not to turn the committee proceedings into a tribal meeting.
Other issues that cropped up in the meeting were the delay in payment of Ugandan soldiers under the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), who have gone months without pay.
The same matter was raised on the floor by Ruhinda North MP, Thomas Tayebwa who revealed during the plenary session that for the last eight months, the soldiers have not been paid.
In response, State Minister in charge of Veterans, Bright Rwamirama admitted that the payments had not been effected due to delays by donors to contribute the funds.
He however gave assurance that the money will be paid once the funds are provided.
Government recently announced a phased withdrawal program from Somalia after the European Union cut its aid to the AMISOM troops.