A minister should not earn a salary BY VENANSIO AHABWE 3rd May 2009 email Print Comments If any minister feels they want to earn a salary, let them find out employment opportunities advertised in newspapers, submit applications to the relevant companies and compete with all of us for available vacancies. If they perform well, they will get the job and validly negotiate for any amount of money for their salary, depending on their professional competence and skills. Then, no one will begrudge them for what benefits they are granted and when and where they might prefer to invest. There is however strong suspicion that government officials do not merely receive hefty wages; they also use their offices to stash away government finances and other resources into personal enterprises. During a stakeholders conference held in Dar es Salaam last Tuesday, the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD) Chairman Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba, and contemporaries, urged government to formulate a policy to enable the general public access the lists of public leaders property. The Comrade thinks this is not necessary. Who of the TCD partners has disclosed their own properties to anyone in the public? The Comrade is not aware of how much Prof. Lipumba is worth. All of us own properties but most are not a subject of public scrutiny. People conceal their belongings from public knowledge because of many reasons. They do not want irrelevant people to poke their noses where they should not. If a person is carrying cash, they do not like the public to know, lest they arouse the interest of wicked or hateful characters and can ultimately pay dearly. At the very least, there is a possibility of inviting alms seekers to yourself and all attendant inconvenience. No one really wants a destitute for a chief. Nobody hates a minister that reaps maize, yams, potatoes, avocados, milk, and eggs from his own farm? No one indeed would hate a leader who owns a high-rise building in the city, nor one who manages a successful trading company. The only desire is that the minister should have attained such wealth or property from personal endeavour, preferably before they were entrusted public resources. They must really not exploit their offices to evade taxation, pilfer the taxpayers input to the treasury or bring down competitors. The Comrade argues too that serving in government should be both voluntary and non-paying. When politicians vie for elective offices, they argue that they are anxious and passionate to serve the common man. In view of that, they are not supposed to benefit personally and directly for the services they render for the betterment of the wretched of the earth. They never present themselves as wealth-hunters when they vie for government positions. Rather they vow: I want to improve the welfare of my society; I will not rest until the poor have been liberated; I can forfeit anything to ensure that poverty and disease are eliminated. Ideally, they are never concerned about their own personal gain but communal welfare. They are willing to sacrifice their own resources to satisfy public need; and they should not demand compensation in return - directly or indirectly. To crosscheck their transparency though, we do not have to access lists of their property. Rather we should campaign for the removal of the president`s and ministers` salaries from the government payroll. Why? We earn minimally but we pay for our own rent; we pay our own fares and for our medical bills. For being a minister on the other hand, one gets a fully serviced and fuelled car; an all-expense paid arrangement wherever they are going: within and out of the country. Falling sick, the minister can access the best medicare whereas the public foots the bill. There is no need for a salary, and people who are looking for it should stay out of government. And corruption will be no more. Venansio Ahabwe is a regional commentator on social, political and economic issues based in Kampala.