Just how much does a Constituent Assembly (CA) member need to stay comfortably in Dodoma when discussing the draft constitution?
Checks by this paper have established that the cost of living for people at the level of CA members has not risen to the extent of justifying members’ demand that their Sh300,000 daily allowance be increased substantially.
Some CA members have confirmed to The Citizen on Sunday that the allowance allows one to live comfortably and have some money to spare.
Calculations done by this paper, based on prices of commodities and services in Dodoma, show that Sh200,000 is enough for a day’s upkeep, including decent accommodation, meals as well as paying a driver and taking care of other needs.
The CA sitting in Dodoma has been controversially dominated by members’ demand for an allowance raise, with many asking the government to increase their daily pay from Sh300,000 to at least Sh500,000.
Those clamouring for an increase claim that the current rate does not match with the “high” cost of living in Dodoma. However, there are those who are opposed to any attempt to pressure the government to give members more.
They include Nkasi North MP Ally Mohamed Keissy, who said Sh300,000 was enough to enable a CA member live comfortably in Dodoma.
Mr Keissy said many CA members were getting decent hotel accommodation for between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000 a night.
“Sh300,000 is more than enough because even the extravagant among us can still save Sh130,000 daily after spending, say, Sh170,000,” the outspoken CCM legislator added.
Mr Julius Mtatiro told The Citizen on Sunday that most CA members were paying an average of Sh50,000 for hotel accommodation, adding that it was possible for a member to remain with Sh100,000 every day after paying for a hotel room, meals and other needs.
Mr Mtatiro, who is also the Civic United Front deputy secretary-general (Tanzania Mainland), gave a breakdown of expenses, saying an average of Sh40,000 could be spent on meals, Sh35,000 as driver allowance and Sh20,000 for fuel. This totals Sh145,000, which is less than half of what members are currently getting.
“Even if you happen to be an uncontrollable spendthrift, it is very difficult to spend more than Sh200,000 daily,” Mr Mtatiro said.
He added that there was no possibility of Tanzanians getting the constitution they desired if CA members would only be interested in lining their pockets and viewing the sitting in Dodoma as a money-minting opportunity.
University of Dodoma (Udom) lecturer Paul Loisulie said CA members were being selfish and greedy since life in Dodoma was not as expensive as they would like the public to believe.
He said Sh300,000 was enough for them to live comfortably in the designated capital, adding that he would be surprised if there was any member who spent more than Sh170,000 daily.
An economist at Udom, Mr Michael Baha, said there was no truth in CA members’ claims. “The government’s decision to pay them Sh300,000 daily was made after research confirmed that this is enough for them to live comfortably,” he said.
“For us to believe that Sh300,000 is not enough, they should come up with research to support their argument,” Mr Baha added.
A survey conducted by The Citizen on Sunday established that the most expensive suite at Dodoma Hotel costs Sh220,000 per night, while decent guest houses offering their customers satellite television, hot water and breakfast charge from Sh20,000 per room per night. Rooms at the upper end of the guest house bracket go for Sh50,000.
Meanwhile, some members have devised ways of saving money. A member who preferred to remain anonymous said some delegates were sharing rooms as a way of saving.
“There are a number of CA members who are sharing rooms, while others have jointly rented houses or are staying with relatives to cut the cost of accommodation,” she said.
Parliament has identified houses for rent at Area E, Ntyuka, Ipagala, Kisasa and Ilazo Kisasa, and a list has been made available to members.
A three-bedroom house can be rented for Sh15,000 a day, or Sh450,000 a month. A room costs Sh5,000 a day, or Sh150,000 a month.
One-way taxi fare between Parliament and the town centre is Sh5,000, while meals are sold at between Sh5,000 and Sh10,000 in major hotels. Food costs between Sh3,000 and Sh5,000 at the Bunge canteen.
A survey by this newspaper has established that many hotels and high-class lodges were vacant as many CA members have opted to stay in cheaper guest houses or moved in with relatives.
A Dodoma hotel operator, Mr Cliff Munis, told The Citizen on Sunday that guest turnout was low, contrary to their expectations.
“We expected a lot of customers during the CA sitting, but this has not happened. Many hotels have vacant rooms. It’s hard to believe that there are over 600 visitors in town,” he said.
On Wednesday, some CA members asked the government to increase their daily allowance, saying the Sh300,000 they were getting was “peanuts”.
They urged the government to double the allowance to enable them to afford decent accommodation, pay their drivers and other personal assistants and take care of incidental expenses during the three months they would be in Dodoma.
CA interim chairman Pandu Ameir Kificho responded by forming a six-member team to advise him on the issue.
There are 629 CA members, who, at the current approved allowance rates, cost the taxpayer about Sh190 million daily.