Updates on the Uganda Parliament
Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa
This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 8th Sitting of the 1st Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament. This Sitting was chaired by the Deputy Speaker Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa. In his communication, the Speaker informed the House that they will go straight away to the next item.
Debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address resumed but was pushed to tomorrow. The House, therefore, moved to handle Matters of National Importance.
Raising on Matters of National Importance, Hon. Judith Achan (NRM, Nwoya District, NRM) decried the rampant cases of insecurity in Northern Uganda where gunmen are breaking into health centres and stealing drugs worth millions of shillings. In response, Minister of State for Primary Health Care, Hon. Margaret Muhanga noted that whereas all health centres have got an askari to offer security, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will swing into action to handle the situation in Northern Uganda. Hon. Mushemeza Elijah Dickens(MP, Sheema South County, Sheema, INDP) also demanded a thorough probe into the operations of telecom companies regarding expired bundles, caller tune payments to Artistes and the whereabouts of mobile money accounts of the deceased subscribers. In response, the Presiding Officer referred the matter to the Committee on ICT and report back in 45 days.
Hon. Margaret Muhanga
The Chairperson of the Committee on Health, Hon. Ayume Charles later presented a report on a petition about the delayed commencement of medical internship for the 2023 intake and welfare of medical interns. According to the Chair, the Ministry of Health received a list of 1,901 interns who were allocated to 58 internship centres but however, the deployment could not be effected by April 2023 because the Ministry does not have the required funding for their allowances. The Committee, therefore, recommended that with immediate effect, the Ministry of Health should provide an update to the House about the ongoing consultations with stakeholders in regard to the delayed commencement of the internship for this financial year. The committee also recommended that Shs46.6bn and Shs23.6bn be provided by MoFPED in this FY 2023/2024 to cater for the shortfall in the budget of medical interns & senior health officers respectively since the 1901 medical interns have already been allocated to the 58 internship sites. In addition, the Committee also recommended that all arrears for the medical interns should be paid with immediate effect. The Committee further recommended that the National Council for Higher Education expedites the process of developing a database for students in higher Institutions undertaking medical courses and have it ready by the end of FY 2023/24. In addition, the database should be updated annually and be accessible by the Ministry of Health for better planning in the short and medium term.
Debating the Report, Hon. Christopher Komakech (MP, Aruu County, Pader, INDP) asked Gov’t to reverse its policy to allow MoH to train medical interns. “Why not reverse the policy so that the Ministry of Health trains medical interns and employs them? This would help them work within their budget.” Hon. Komakech said. Hon. Ssenyonyi Joel Besekezi (MP, Nakawa Division West, Kampala City, NUP) on his part told the House that the bulk of work in hospitals is being done by medical interns and there is a need to prioritize them. “We need to put our money where our mouth is. We have various challenges as a country and spreading our resource envelope can be a challenge, but there are things such as healthcare which are important,”. Hon. Ssenyonyi Joel added. In a similar way, Hon. Aisha Kabanda (DWR, Butambala District, NUP) moved a motion without notice urging the Government to scrap off pre-internship examinations required by medical students before undergoing internship. In response, State Minister for Education, Hon. Moriku Joyce Kaducu said the pre-internship examination is only subjected to medical students who are not from the Commonwealth countries. “The examination is not cutting a cross board, but it is only for specific categories of people.” the Minister said. In addition, Minister of State for Primary Health Care, Hon. Margaret Muhanga noted that “Every 3 interns are supervised by 1 specialist, but we are at 7 or 8, meaning we need more specialists to supervise interns. The number of interns since 2016 has doubled but the number of specialists has not”. The committee report on the deployment of medical interns was later adopted with amendments. The Deputy Speaker also directed the Minister of Health to bring an action-taken report on this matter.
The House also considered the HIV report in police detention centres and prison facilities. This was presented by the Committee Chair, Hon Sarah Kayagi. The Committee on HIV/AIDS established that the HIV prevalence rates in prisons were higher than the national average. “For example, in Dyanga Prison in Kiryandongo District, the prison facility recorded 18%; Gulu Main Prisons 18.6% and Kitgum Prisons 10% HIV prevalence respectively”. the Chair said. The committee further observed that the high HIV prevalence in prison facilities could be attributed to same-sex intimacy, delays in the window period and sharing of sharp objects supposedly for hygiene purposes. The Committee was also informed that prison facilities did not have specialized accommodation facilities designed to separate HIV prisoners as this would increase stigma. The committee observed that the lack of specialized nutrition for HIV inmates was bound to further decrease on their immunity thereby compromising their health. The report was later adopted by the House
The House also received the COSASE report on the financial statements of National Medical Stores for the Financial Year ended 30th June 2022 and other matters. This was presented by the committee chairperson, Hon. Ssenyonyi Joel. The Committee noted that MoH is the biggest debtor to NMS at Shs31.4 bn followed by CDC project at Shs8.9bn. “According to NMS, efforts to have these funds recovered have been futile,” the Chair said. On complaints of delayed delivery of drugs, the Committee recommended that NMS streamlines the cycle of procurement, dispatch and delivery of medicines and other supplies to health facilities with strict timelines.
Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi
Debating the Report, Hon. Peter Okot (Tochi County, Omoro, DP) noted that “In Omoro District, for the last 3 months, most facilities have gone without drugs. What is happening? Now the [COSASE] report shows that the problem is non-payment by the Ministry of Health. Something needs to be done”. Hon. Kayemba Geofrey Solo (MP, Bukomansimbi South County) noted that NMS supplied small-sized condoms in his area. “I got a complaint that they brought condoms of small sizes which could not fit users. At the end of the day, they didn’t use them; they burnt them & I am sure some people lost their lives.” Hon. Kayemba said. The report was later adopted by the House
Finally, The State Minister for Finance, Hon Henry Musasizi tabled a motion to insert a new clause on the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2023 as returned by H.E. the President. The motion was later referred to the Committee on Finance, which is already processing the Bill.