Arusha. A standoff on allowances members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) are entitled to has taken a new twist.
While the lawmakers are claiming outstanding arrears for the virtual sessions held in the last four months, the secretariat insists some of the demands are invalid.
“There shouldn’t be any subsistence allowance if it does not involve travel,” insisted an official of the East African Community (EAC) secretariat yesterday.
Eala has held several sittings through video conference since April this year necessitated by the outbreak of Covid-19.
The legislators also conducted several sensitisation activities on the border areas on the how to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The MPs claim that despite working from their homes they were entitled duty allowances and other emoluments as per the House rules.
Sources said the regional MPs are entitled to $160 per sitting besides the daily subsistence allowance (DSA) for the duration of the session.
The Assembly has a total of 54 members from each of the six EAC partner states, each entitled a basic salary of $6,408.
Neither the Eala officials nor some MPs reached could openly discuss a whole range of their outstanding claims or financial privileges they are entitled.
“On this, it is better you contact the concerned officials. What is at stake we are owed arrears for the past four months,” said Ms Pamela Maasay, an MP from Tanzania.
She said Eala activities are not only confined to the plenary sessions of the House but also meetings of the Committees and visits to regional project sites.
Ms Maasay said they have been repeatedly told payment for their demands could not be effected due to shortage of funds crippling the entire EAC.
But she insisted the financial situation at Eala was more worrying compared to other EAC organs like the secretariat and the institutions.
“The other organs and institutions always enjoy the support of the development partners from projects. This is not the case with Eala,” she said.
However, the EAC acting deputy secretary general (Finance and Administration) Steven Mlote alluded the Community has not failed to pay the MPs their June salaries.
“All employees of EAC organs and institutions have been paid except the MPs,” he told reporters when reached for comment on the crisis.
Last week the Assembly declined to approve a Vote of Account of $29.4 million being EAC’s expenditure budget for the first quarter of 2020/2021.
The move is seen as a sign of displeasure by the MPs who wanted their cash demands which have accumulated since March to be settled.
“This has serious implications on the effective functioning of the organs and institutions of the Community,” said Abdikadir Aden, the chairperson of Eala General Purpose Committee.
But Mr Mlote, who is the deputy SG for Planning and Infrastructure, said the EAC Council of Ministers will meet on Friday to discuss the organization’s cash crisis.
The Eala budget session is tentatively slated for July 15th during which the expenditure budget will be virtually read and subsequently approved.
He partly attributed the cash woes facing the Community to failure by some member countries to clear their budgetary contributions.
Sources told The Citizen that Burundi and South Sudan owed the Community a combined total of $42.8 million as of June 30 last year.
He said despite the huge arrears dating back to years, there were no plans to penalize the two countries which joined EAC in 2016 and 2007 respectively.
According to Mr Mlote, the other EAC partner states, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda had cleared their arrears “by 100 per cent” by June 30th, 2020.
A report tabled at Eala last month indicated three of the four countries had arrears amounting to $8.3 million by June 20 with Tanzania leading with $4.2 million.