Some Constituent Assembly (CA) members yesterday asked the government to increase their daily allowance, saying the Sh300,000 they were getting was peanuts.
They said want the amount increased to roughly Sh700,000 ($437.5) a day to enable them afford accommodation, pay their drivers, other personal assistants and above all bankroll their daily expenses in Dodoma during the 90-day period.
There are 629 CA members who at the current approved allowance rates cost taxpayers Sh188,700,000 ($117,937.5) a day, according to data analysis done by The Citizen newspaper.
Speaking to The Citizen over the phone, Kigoma North MP, Mr Zitto Kabwe said: “I am shocked to see that some of CA members want a daily allowance of Sh700,000… this is outrageous.” But speaking during a seminar to present the draft of the CA standing orders, some members said life in Dodoma was “very expensive”, and what they were supposed to get should reflect the reality on the ground.
They wondered why members of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) were paid handsomely, while they (CA members) were expected to survive on “peanuts”.
The issue came up after some members put aside the seminar’s agenda and decided to discuss other matters despite repeated attempts by interim chairman Pandu Ameir Kificho to have them stick to the matter at hand.
Mr Richard Ndasa (Sumve-CCM) was the first to raise the allowance issue, saying he was concerned about the welfare of the 201 members who were appointed by the President.
Mr Ndasa said the presidential appointees had abandoned their jobs and salaries to play their part in rewriting Tanzania’s history, adding that they were not used to life in Dodoma, “which is very expensive”.
He accused the government of favouring CRC members. “Why were CRC members paid so generously for preparing the Draft Constitution while we are paid very little money to prepare the actual Constitution?” Mr Ndasa queried.
He said CA members, who are paid Sh80,000 and Sh220,000 as night and general allowances, respectively, were expected to pay their drivers and other assistants from the same amount.
“Why are we required to pay our drivers from our allowances while the drivers of CRC members were paid by the government?” Mr Ndasa asked to the obvious delight of other CA members.
He asked the government increase their allowances to ensure that members were in the right frame of mind when they start to discuss the Draft Constitution.
Mr Suleiman Nchambi (Kishapu-CCM) also called for fatter allowances, saying CA members should live comfortably during their three-month stay in Dodoma.
He said most of the CA members, particularly the 201 delegates appointed by the President, were putting their lives in danger by staying in substandard hotels because they could not afford quality accommodation.
“A member cannot get quality hotel accommodation for less than Sh70,000 a day. What members are getting is not enough for accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner and paying their drivers,” Mr Nchambi said.
He warned that many CA members would pack up and go home if the government would not increase their allowances in the next ten days.
As was the case during Tuesday’s briefing, yesterday’s proceedings turned chaotic as members routinely defied orders from the interim chairman.
Some members shouted down Mr Yahya Khamis Hamad, when he rose to speak, saying he had not followed procedure. Sensing that the situation was getting out of hand, Mr Kificho asked members to decide through acclamation whether they wanted to continue with the session or not.
Although the majority of the members voted in favour of continuing with the meeting, many continued to ignore the interim chairman’s orders.
Ms Anna Abdallah (Special Seat-CCM) called for calm, and warned members that their conduct could turn the entire sitting into a farce and lower their dignity in the eyes of Tanzanians.
“We have to make sure that we maintain our dignity, bearing in mind that this meeting is being broadcast live. We must not allow ourselves to be viewed as a ridiculous lot,” she said. Responding to views raise by CA members, Mr Kificho said he would forward the matter to the government.
“I have heard your concerns, but I can’t give a categorical response right away. I will forward your views to the government,” he said.
According to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Dr Thomas Kashililah, each CA member is entitled to Sh80,000 as night allowance and Sh220,000 as general allowance.
The Sh220,000 includes sitting allowance and pay for drivers and other aides.