By HOMELAND MEDIA TEAM
The Parliament Communication office has hinted that the recent procurement of Shs2.4billion cars for the office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker is more money-saving that the initial options they had at hand.
The argument was fronted in the line of the current economic situation in the country, with many citing such an expense does not give regard to the financial plight of the taxpayers especially at a time like this.
However, the Director of Communications in Parliament, Chris Obore maintained that the decision by parliament was not only legally executed but also money-saving.
“The supplier in Uganda asked us for far more money than the one we used to procure those cars. Why then wouldn’t we give the Ugandan supplier the deal if it was about being extravagant?” Obore posed.
He said that previously, the parliament has procured cars for the same, but they have considerably spent large sums on repairs.
“We have benzes, we have these cars in parliament, but repairing them alone when they break down costs too much. You take the car to the garage and you spend Shs40m hence cumulatively you would have spent more than one who has bought a new car. So that was also the basis of buying these cars,” he said.
Parliament’s decision to procure two luxurious high end cars for Speaker Anita Annet Among and her deputy Thomas Tayebwa at a cost of £520,000 (about Shs2.4 billion) has sparked resentment from a cross-section of the public, with some describing the deal as an extravagant expenditure.
According to Obore, cars are not the issue because they are the property of parliament, but certain people are using the cars to attack the person of Anita Among.
“Parliament did not do anything wrong to allocate these cars. First, we procured them in February, meaning we are within the budget time frame. Secondly, these are not personal cars, they are cars attached to the people in these offices as long as they hold the office and they are mandated by law,” he said.
“This is not about Among or Tayebwa, they are merely office holders, the cars belong to parliament,” he added.
Parliamentary Commission has tried on two different occasions to purchase the Speaker and her Deputy’s ceremonial cars, but they have been unsuccessful on both attempts.
Those opposed to the procurement argue that such embellished expenditure, which comes at a time when the country is grappling with escalating commodity prices, is a big slap in the face of citizens.
Ms Prossy Akampurira Mbabazi, the Rubanda District Woman Member of Parliament, also a parliamentary commissioner, yesterday confirmed the procurement of the two luxurious vehicles in a telephone interview.
“The decision was endorsed by the parliamentary commissioners and money to purchase the two vehicles was approved,” she explained.
The vehicles were procured from a firm in the UK and one is already here. The second vehicle is arriving next week, according to Parliament.
Giving a justification for the luxurious procurement, Ms Mbabazi said the cars belong to the two public offices and not to individuals.
“The current cars [for the Speaker and Deputy speaker] have been here for more than 10 years and once they get old, it is reasonable to get other cars for our speakers. I don’t know why people are taking it as if it is her car; that is a parliamentary car and once they leave office, they will not take these cars home,” she said.
Opposition Forum for Democratic Change deputy spokesperson John Kikonyogo said: “The country’s economic situation is worrying, Ugandans are struggling to afford the basics of life, and such a procurement is a mockery to Ugandans,” he said.
National Unity Platform party Secretary General David Lewis Rubongoya said Parliament has betrayed Ugandans.
Parliament has also allocated itself extra Shs193bn to cater for their salary increment and allowances.
Parliament quotations of the two vehicles are said to be high end considering the prices on the open market.
Some online Mercedes Benz dealers, for instance, quote the vehicles at between $111,100 (about Shs416m) and $118,625 (about Shs444m) while others have quoted the similar models at $230,000 (about Shs860m), including taxes and other fees.
The Clerk to Parliament, Mr Adolf Mwesige, in a letter dated April 3 addressed to the executive director of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA), requested for clearance to procure the said vehicles.
He explained that the process of procuring new cars commenced last year and should have been completed earlier, but the figures quoted by the sole bidder, M/S Spear Motors Limited, had surpassed Parliament’s initial budget.
“M/S Spear Motors Ltd was not successful on that occasion because it quoted a price of Shs2.92 billion for the vehicles that exceeded the pre-established market survey estimate [of Shs2.89billion], for the procurement as per the provision of Section 74(3) (a) of the PPDA Act, 2003 and regulation 5 (4) of the PPDA regulations…” Mr Mwesige said in the letter.
Albeit Limited, a company based in the UK on March 28, 2022 sent quotations for the new cars at £520,000 (Shs2.4 billion) and the buyer admin fee of £5,000 (Shs23.2 million).
Mr Chris Obore, the director of communications at Parliament, was quick to write off the alleged price quotations. Replying to Agatha Atuhaire, who raised the issue on Twitter, Mr Obore said the vehicles could not cost that high based on quotations from Spear Motors that had quoted Shs2.9 billion for the two cars, way above what the Albeit Limited from UK quoted.
Parliament was expected to issue a press statement yesterday, but had not done so by press time.
About the cars
The latest Mercedes Benz S500 L AMG Line 2022 comes with a 24-valve Turbocharged engine with a 2,999cc capacity.
It also comes with other luxuries that include panoramic sliding sunroof, a parking package with a 360°camera and remote parking, climatised rear seats and electric rear seats with memory package and luxury head restraints.