I only got to learn that Ugandan MPs had received their long-discussed iPads when KFM Radio (93.3FM) called me up for a comment this evening and put me right on the spot to make it there and then.
For a split-second after the caller explained what he wanted me to comment on, I was alarmed that someone was reading my mind, because I had been thinking about sanitary pads.
Not that I wear them, or was purchasing them, or anything so intimate – sanitary pads for girls have been a daily subject for me this week because of a charity event I am hoping will be successful this Sunday – the Father Daughter Dance (#FATHERDaughterDANCE on twitter with @jamwiltshire and @luvsherlyf) that will be raising funds to buy sanitary pads and underwear for 200 girls in Buikwe District’s Seven Hills Primary School. The calculation for each girl to be stocked with enough pads and underwear to last the year comes up to Ushs96,000. Again: Ushs96,000 is enough for sanitary pads and underwear for a girl for a full year.
And my position is that whereas this is not the most important thing in Uganda for MPs or any government official to be spending money on, and clearly should not have been put on the tax-payer’s bill, and is most definitely just another example of selfish spending by the privileged-at-public-expense, it has been done.
There’s no use crying over spilt milk, the adage goes, but this isn’t spilt milk. It’s milk bought for the privileged few in a land where the majority are dying of thirst from lack of water, and we still shouldn’t cry over it.
Instead, let’s make it useful; and I have a few ideas for doing so.
But before I lay those out, please let’s be clear that I do NOT think we should sweep aside issues such as:
a) the outrageous cost of purchasing the iPads: said to be about US$377,000 (about Ushs980million – enough for sanitary pads and underwear for those 10,000 girls – and I will talk about this some more much, much later because today’s pads are more high-tech and important than the sanitary pads for girls who want to go to school when they are in their monthly periods but can’t because they can’t afford pads).
That means each Parliamentary iPad cost US$1,000. Of course, that is fair. Ignorant people will argue that iPads only cost US$200-US$400 but that’s ignoring the type and capacity of the iPad, the features it comes with, and the cost of transportation and taxes. On the Apple website you find that they range from US$499 to US$929 and that’s without taxes, the Apple protection plan (insurance, kind-of), and even apps that one might want to buy to use on the iPad. Microsoft Office for Mac, for instance, costs US$219.95 (again, without taxes and transport!).
Never mind that if you are buying a personal iPad you somehow find ways of getting it from wherever into your hands at the cheapest possible cost or, if you are like me, you just keep using the first iPad you ever owned since not much changes with these things anyway and once you’ve worked out the best use for all your gadgets, efficiency occurs on its own:
b) the fact that, seriously, we (Ugandan tax-payers) should be spending money on much more seriously needed, developmental matters: and I’m not talking about sanitary pads for high school girls in rural areas who miss school for one week out of every month due to lack of these simple items – we could provide for those girls by cutting on many other MPs costs before getting to iPads. And of course the US$377,000 is far less than the Ushs36billion spent on that parking lot (have I mentioned that already?), which a Parliamentary spokesperson referred to as “critical”.
“This is a modern state-of-the-art facility, the first of its kind in Uganda. It is not a wastage of funds. When plans for this project were being drawn, the Parliamentary Commission assumed as it ideally should be, that all Members of Parliament attending Plenary would be parked at Parliament, which is at times the case…” wrote the senior information officer in October.
Of course the general public, consisting of mostly ordinary mortals with an abnormally simple perspective on life, does not appreciate the importance of such matters, and by this time had forgotten that just months before stories had abounded about absenteeism in the Ugandan Parliament – which was most probably caused by a lack of parking space. The lack of parking space could be blamed on our (tax-payers) giving the MPs cars in the first place but let’s not be mean.
The list of what other, much more important things we could spend our money on could very well be written by the MPs themselves, on our behalf of course.
c) MPs are surely paid well-enough already that they can afford their own bloody iPads, especially in a land where girls can’t bloody afford (I wouldn’t dare interchange words here) sanitary pads! This point does not need belabouring.
So, I say, the iPads have been distributed and we should get over ourselves. These MPs are OUR representatives. WE send them to the House by choosing them ourselves. To continue complaining and agonising about the cost of the iPads and pointing out all of the above while trying to appeal to some sense of shame or piety is to waste another precious resource – time.
Plus, in many ways it would just be hypocrisy because we all know that placed in the shoes of the MPs we would also drive back from the village to collect our ‘free’ iPad. In fact, many of us in private business are toting the newest Samsung Galaxy and iPhone on offer courtesy of money that could otherwise be shareholder profits if allocated differently…
And again, these damn iPads only cost US$1,000! How about raising a furore over the cost of all these four-wheel-drive cars that go for fifty (50) times that and which is spent every five years?
Does anyone know about the fuel costs of MPs – Ushs43million a year (that was in 2011, by the way)?
As Kinkinzi East MP and Parliamentary Commissioner Chris Baryomunsi said last year when asked about the denied teachers’ pay rises vis-a-vis the increase in MP fuel allowances and other costs, “The issue of teachers’ pay should not be mixed with MPs’ facilitation because the two are very different yet they are both very important.”
So, ignore the spilt milk; the glass wasn’t knocked over by an idiotically wasteful child or a clumsy housegirl somewhere; and it’s still right there, you are hungry and malnourished so …
Here are a few ways of licking it up, or making good of a bad situation:
1. Make all MPs configure their ‘Find My iPad’ settings so that their constituents can locate them during the hours that they are supposed to be in Parliament. Since there is now a lot of parking space…you get the idea?
2. Better still, I know youngsters who can come up with an app called ‘Find My MP’ which will zero in on the exact location of your MP provided they have their iPad on them at any one time.
3. But of course, an MP might leave his iPad in Parliament and then go off to Kinshasa for some specialised treatment (which brings me to a one Tony Nsubuga Kipoi – what the hell with this guy?! Did he say both this and this and why is he always in so much trouble and who are the people of Bubulo West who vote for such a man?! More importantly, where is his iPad right now?)
As I was saying, an MP might leave his iPad behind so that you think he is in the House when you do a ‘Find My MP or iPad’, so if the app shows that (s)he is in Parliament, immediately send them an email. Every MP has an email address and they are all listed here.
Send your MP an email and because they have an iPad, surely they should respond almost to the minute.
4. A clever MP will avoid having to receive and respond to numerous emails the entire afternoon, and will instead open a Twitter account and use the iPad to tweet proceedings as they roll out. That way, the MP can even take views from constituents LIVE as debates take place!
5. This will be fantastic especially during the newly-introduced Prime Minister’s Questions segment, because we will now be in a position to help Parliamentarians avoid asking inane questions such as “How old is President Museveni?” and instead furnish our MPs with questions that address REAL issues.
6. Now, with this new technology in their hands, perhaps MPs won’t find themselves delaying with the delivery of work as has happened all too frequently in the past. If anything, they will be much, much more clever. YOUR role in this is to send them as many links to intelligent material as possible so that they are rendered much, much more useful and far less ignorant than they sometimes may appear to be if you only read about them in some of our newspapers or watch local TV.
There are many more ways of making good of this iPad situation than I can singularly come up with, so please feel free to suggest more – send them to your MP or to the Speaker, or to the person in charge of training MPs on the use of iPads, which was provided for in the bidding document “under item 20; that ICT officers’ training “should include travel subsistence and per diem (of the officers) at Parliament of Uganda rates.”
Of course if YOU don’t remember who trained YOU on how to use your iPad, TYS – YOU are clearly not a Member of Parliament in Uganda.
DISMAY, according to my Apple dictionary, is: “concern and distress caused by something unexpected”.
I got to Page 12 of today’s The New Vision at 2100hrs/9:00pm and that’s the word that came to mind to describe what I felt.
Of course, I have more than my fair share of lugezi-gezi, which I confirmed by asking a couple of people whether they had read the papers today. They had, much earlier in the day, and had moved on with life.
The first box story on Page Two titled ‘Govt to set up productivity centre’ was accompanied by a photo of Minister of State for Labour, Mwesigwa Rukutana, who said the poor mindset of Ugandans coupled with the poor education system has led to low productivity.
Therefore, the government is to set up a productivity training centre for people intending to be employed in the public service so as to boost the country’s productivity, economic growth and gross domestic product.
What does this mean? NO, SERIOUSLY?
I went to the website, as advised at the end of the clip, to see if there was a more elaborate story about this productivity centre there but found none.
So I googled the headline and the first entry was a story from The Standard of 2002!
‘Kenya: Govt To Set Up Productivity Centre’:
31 January 2002
Plans are under way to establish a National Productivity Centre in Kenya, Minister for Labour, Mr Joseph Ngutu, said yesterday.
Ngutu said the proposed centre aims at spearheading a productivity movement and ensure there is a paradigm shift to performance management…”
Lower down on the page was another small story titled, ’Nandujja wows House’ that referred to Annet Nandujja as a “crooner”, which title I grew up associating with the likes of Freddie Jackson, Luther Vandross and Keith Washington.
It irritated me to read and I just had to check a couple of dictionaries, all of which converged on the decisive definition of a “crooner” as “male”, “soft”, “sentimental”, “low voice”.
I turned the page and tried to forget.
Only to land on Page 5’s ‘Besigye, Lukwago arrested in Kampala’ which carried the memorable: “Besigye reportedly arrived in Kisekka disguised as a passenger in a taxi.”
In short, he got there in a taxi.
Is there a costume or something worn by a passenger in a taxi?
Do they have a certain look about them? A smell? A posture, perhaps, by which they are widely recognised and can camouflage themselves to evade detection?
Is the act of entering into a taxi itself the complete disguise?
Now disguise yourself as a reader and move on:
To the other end of the same page where the snippet ‘Youth want MPs support on health’ irritated me more than the thought of Nandujja crooning.
“A group of youth health activists want MPs to join them in a campaign dubbed” ‘A clean Uganda’…the leader of the activists, Hannington Kato, said the campaign…needs financial and moral support from MPs…”
This is the idiotic dependency syndrome that is being cultivated amongst Uganda’s youths and that somebody must put a stop to soon.
Unfortunately, it won’t be the MPs because they put everything on the bill that taxpayers have to pay – including their iPads – and you try getting them to email you back or read this blog and make a comment off their (my) iPad.
The youth health activists asking for financial support to do some cleaning, though, might have been prompted by reports that the MPs had just received a Ushs36billion parking lot and were now asking for Ushs16billion security system for it.
Like I said, another story for another day. (And I got back to politicians and the youth a few pages on.)
First, though, the Page Six report of Buganda Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga’s fundraising visit to Parliament: “After the motion was moved by Mityana North MP Godfrey Kiwanda and seconded by Betty Nambooze (Mukono), MPs wondered why it had taken the Government so long to release the report (on the Kasubi Tombs fire).”
Which MPs wondered?
Just last week the Parliamentary Committees themselves presented reports to plenary that were two years late – such as the Ad Hoc Committee report on Oil & Gas considering allegations of bribery and the Ad Hoc Committee report on Energy.
In a Monitor story on the delayed Report on Oil & Gas, the Committee Chairman Michael Werikhe is quoted as saying: “Our investigations were issued based and the report is going to be strong and issue based. Let people sit back and wait…”
We did, and there was a story last week saying the allegations were found to be false and baseless.
Strong and issue-based.
I can almost hear him saying, “Yah!”
As for the Ad Hoc report on Oil & Gas, it’s main thrust was to sort out the high energy bill presented by the thermal fuel power generators. One of the companies stopped supplying Uganda with electricity and left the country in June last year (Aggreko), the other two haven’t supplied electricity in 2013, and…ah!
Two Pages later, the story ‘CAOs, town clerks warned over budgets’ promises that “Chief Administrative officers and town clerks have been directed to submit budget framework papers by November 30 or be fired. The directive was given by the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Patrick Mutabwire.”
I dare any newspaper to report on this come December 1, 2013.
Even The New Vision.
Page 10: Back to the youth issue, with ’Stop politicking, youth told’.
“Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Daudi Migereko has asked the youth to stop wasting most of their time politicking but invest such time in productive activities.”
I personally disagree with the call for them to stop politicking, and prefer instead that they be told what type of politics to engage in – and certainly not the type most of the people older than them seem to be wasting time doing.
But in the last paragraph the fundamental problem with our approach to the youth presents itself, after the story tells us that Migereko pledged Ushs2m and MP Vincent Bagiire promised Ushs1m to the group: “The chairperson of the Jinja Development Group, Asuman Kambo, explained that they started in 2010 with 50 chairs and one tent, which they hire out to event organisers, but they have now grown to 500 chairs and 10 tents.”
THIS is what the youth do – stuff like boda-boda, hiring out tents and chairs. NOT assembling boda-bodas, making tents and chairs or any wealth creation, and not using loans that they must work hard to pay back.
Perhaps they should attend Rukutana’s Productivity Centre?
On Page 11, the story ‘Dokolo farmers use beehives as coffins’ finally appeared (advertised on Page 1, so I had been waiting for obvious reasons because I have always known bees to be quite small…beehives, too).
“Five years ago, the Ministry of Trade and Industry trained 250 people in beekeeping to boost honey production in Dokolo district…following the training, each participant was given a beehive and the minister (Fr. Simon Lokodo) promised to establish a honey factory in the district if production shot up…”
But then recently, according to Cecilia Atim Ogwal, Dokolo Woman MP, “some residents have used the beehives to bury their dead children, while others split them for firewood.”
Julius Okello, a resident of Atwako village in Okwongodul sub-county, added: “some people use the top iron-sheets of remaking doors and preparing brick-making boxes.”
!!!! #smh #eish!
So maybe the training and intervention should have been in support of brick-making?
Maybe they lost the plot because the honey factory wasn’t established?
No, because Dr. Richard Enyang, the district production officer, “said the production of honey in Dokolo district has gone up due to the many farmers’ groups formed under the programme”.
So perhaps the journalist should be asking Fr .Simon Lokodo whither the factory…
Meanwhile, “Robert Okodia, a farmer and honey dealer, attributed the misuse to ignorance…”
Even after training was conducted?!
I believe the problem is that the beehives were given to them free of charge instead of as a loan secured by the threat of serious personal loss, but again I just have lugezi-gezi.
In the long run of the story, “In Dokolo…the biting poverty has prompted the government and other humanitarian agencies to devise several intervention measures…”
Another thing I disagree with, because it interferes with Darwinism and natural selection.
Below this story was ‘Dr. Obote College picks science prize’ claiming that the College “has received 20 computers after it won this year’s Science and Innovation Challenge…and beat seven traditional giants to win the contest.”
How did they do so? No information. What did they create? No information. Okay, what was the innovation challenge they met? No information.
The rest of the story lists the seven traditional giants in full, names the contest organiser and the sponsors.
Like the beekeepers, you learn nothing.
On Page 12 I gave up after reading ‘MP Cadet advises farmers’ which thankfully was a brief stating in full: “Bunyaruguru Member of Parliament Cadet Benjamin has urged the people of Rubirizi district to engage in commercial farming as one way of eliminating poverty from their homes and improve on their living conditions.
“Poverty and hunger can be eliminated if all people practiced commercial farming for both food and cash crops because this area is suitable for coffee growing,” said Cadet.”
Besides the fact that he was stating the obvious, why is this news? Why do MPs get to gather people in places to listen to such statements?
I can’t be bothered to go and check the Hansard to confirm whether he contributed to discussions on Genetically Modified seeds, biotechnology and other agricultural development debates; or to hear whether he pushed for government expenditure to be re-prioritised to support commercial farming – like asking for Ushs36billion to be re-allocated from a parking lot to tractors for every district or something.
But this is the first time I have heard his name so…fat chance.
In my dismay I really wish we could leave a lot more to natural selection rather than MPs and productivity centres.