MPIGI- After haggling and pushing for long, councillors in Mpigi District now have a reason to smile after their proposal to be given free smartphones in the coming financial year was endorsed.
The endorsement will see at least 19 district councillors, a few selected civil workers and the district chairperson receive smartphones, which are estimated to cost Shs7.2m.
The district also allocated Shs12m under information office to cater for Internet bundles annually.
Although the councillors had preferred iPads, some of those who talked to Daily Monitor, welcomed the initiative, saying it is a step in the right direction.
“I personally commend the district for the initiative and I believe smartphones can do some of the functions of iPads. With smartphones, we will be able to surf the web, send emails, Facebook, Tweet, set appointments and schedules,” Mr Cyrus Baker Ssempijja, the deputy district speaker, said.
The money for the smartphones is reflected in the district budget for the financial year 2017/2018 that was approved late last month.
Mr Joseph Ssempijja, a councillor representing Buwama Sub-county, said smartphones are essential for purposes of networking but many councillors could not afford them.
With smartphones, Mr Ssempijja said they will now be able to effectively execute their duties and will reduce on stationary expenses.
“I believe the smartphones will improve our communication and we promise to serve our people better,” he said.
While speaking to the Daily Monitor in a recent interview, Mr Godfrey Nalima, the chairperson of the district finance committee, said other district officials who will get free smartphones include, the chief administrative officer, chief finance officer, deputy Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and clerk to the council. The phones will be procured in the first quarter of the financial year, according to Mr Nalima.
“In order to enhance monitoring and communication among local leaders, my committee found it prudent to purchase smartphones for all district councillors and some technical staff. Each smart phone will cost us at least Shs300, 000 and this will quicken the sharing of information from our areas via platforms such as twitter, WhatsApp and emails,” he added.
But Mr John Nsubuga, a social critic in Buwama Town slammed the councillors whom he accused of pushing for selfish interests at the expense of key issues that jointly benefit the community.
“I personally believe in digital age because I own a smartphone, but our district is still poor and we have many pressing problems to tackle rather than buying smartphones for councillors,” he said.
“If they want to give them smartphones, let the district deduct that money from councillors’ allowances not taxpayers’ money,” he said.
Mr Clavier Mutuluza, Mpigi District chairperson said; “This is little money and as a district, we can afford it. Let us buy smartphones and improve information flow between the political and technical wings.”
The Shs23.5b budget also provides an increment in the councillors’ monthly council sitting allowances from Shs250, 000 to Shs350, 000 each.
Councillors will also be entitled to lunch allowance of Shs13, 000 each at every sitting in addition to Shs680,000 which they receive every quarter.
In the last financial year, councillors asked the office of the CAO to buy iPads for them. They said iPads would save them from the paper-based communication but were advised by the former CAO, Mr Willy Batalingaya to focus on fulfilling expectations of their electorate rather than “ satisfying their personal desires”.
The councillors later requested for smartphones, a proposal that was endorsed by the district technical team.
In the neighbouring Kalangala District, councillors have also been pushing for iPads in the last two financial years without any success. District authorities in the islands complained that they lack enough resources to buy the gargets.