Today in Parliament | 11th April 2024

Today in Parliament | 11th April 2024

Greetings from the Africa Leadership Institute and the Parliament of Uganda!

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 23rd Sitting of the 3rd Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament. This Sitting was chaired by the Speaker Rt. Hon. Anitah Among. In her communication, the Speaker directed the Minister of State for Sports, Hon. Ogwang Peter to provide accountability for the Shs97Bn spent on renovations at Mandela National Stadium in Namboole. A recent CAF inspection report found that the current work by the UPDF Engineering brigade falls short of the required standard. “Let the Minister give us a status of the progress of Namboole and let him also give us accountability of the Shs97Bn. This is a very serious issue, all Ugandans have been excited about AFCON, but at the same time that there is no way we can go and play in another country, remember we are supposed to play with Algeria, but then, Morocco has offered us to go and play in Morocco for free, but Algeria has said, we aren’t going to Morocco, because of their issues, so, what is the way forward?”, she said. The Speaker’s directive came in response to a concern raised by Hon. Nambeshe John Baptist, the Opposition Chief Whip, who expressed his dissatisfaction with Minister Ogwang’s failure to fulfill his numerous promises regarding the construction of the Namboole stadium. “The inspection report has found the stadium works  are not compliant with the requirements and it hasn’t been approved. The Minister had made an undertaking that by the time of inspection, the works will be ready, he has let us down and I would like the Minister to report to us what has gone amiss. More over these works, if we have an opportunity, if they can be expedited we can have a second chance because we don’t have another venue to host this FIFA World Cup United 2026 qualifiers”, he said

Reacting to the Speaker’s communication, Hon. Aogon Silas (MP, Kumi Municipality, Kumi District, INDP) asked for the resignation of everyone involved in the shoddy work at Mandela National Stadium, as well as a detailed explanation of what went wrong during the renovations. “I think it is proper that when the Minister is speaking, they give us a proper statement about the gaps, is it the money which was the problem? What was the issue so that we get to know early enough, otherwise, for us to miss this actually the Minister or the person responsible will have to vacate their position because this time as Uganda, we can’t lose that opportunity. You assured us, told us that things are going to be okay and we are now here, we are asking, what is wrong?”, he said. On the same note, Hon. Odur Jonathan (MP, Erute County South, Lira District, NUP) cautioned that the government’s neglect in resolving the concerns outlined in CAF’s inspection report regarding the construction quality at Namboole Stadium could jeopardize Uganda’s opportunities to host future tournaments such as CHAN and AFCON, for which the nation has submitted bids. “The Minister promised so far there are five deadlines. This lack of seriousness and taking the House for granted and Ugandans is what the Minister has to address today. That when you come here and make promises and reassure the country the country and the country is excited. That Namboole is the pre-condition for us to host CHAN, and if you satisfy, then you can host AFCON and by December 2025, we should have that Stadium ready. Would the Minister address us in light of the bid we have put to host AFCON and CHAN because Namboole was the only stadium that was earmarked to host CHAN”, he said

The Government Chief Whip, Hon. Obua Denis Hamson (MP, Ajuri County, Alebtong District, NRM) notified Parliament about a meeting currently taking place with Minister Ogwang, Markson Oboth, the Minister of Defence representing UPDF, and other officials. He also extended an invitation to MPs to visit Namboole to assess the progress made by the Government. “Mandela National Stadium was recently inspected by a team of inspectors from Confederation of African Football. Of the major areas that had been highlighted, when this stadium wasn’t approved about 2-3years ago, we as a country have made substantive progress and I invite MPs to go to Namboole”, he said.  Nevertheless, Hon. Ssemujju Nganda Ibrahim (MP, Kira Municipality, Wakiso District, FDC) questioned whether the Minister’s request for Members of Parliament to visit Namboole seeks to supersede CAF’s expert opinion with that of the MPs. “The clarification I am seeking from Minister Hamson Obua is whether now that the inspectors have said we aren’t ready, you are now replacing them with MPs because you are issuing an invitation. So the clarification I am seeking is whether if MPs with their naked eyes say the stadium is ready, we can do away with inspectors”, he said.

The House then proceeded to consider the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on budget estimates for the subsequent votes in that sector. These votes concern the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Missions Abroad. This report was presented by Hon. Opolot Fred (MP, Pingire County, Serere Distric, NRM). The committee report indicates that Uganda’s embassies in Washington DC, London, and Pretoria were initially authorized to issue passports. However, the issuance process was later centralized back to the main office in Kampala because of insufficient resources to set up passport machines at the foreign missions. Hon. Opolot pointed out that certain certificates of titles were untraceable with the custodian of Ugandan properties. An example is the certificate of title for Uganda’s Chancery in Pretoria. “The committee thus considers it appropriate to request that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Lands and Urban Development provide this House with an updated report and evidence of Uganda’s overseas assets within six months”, he said. He also noted that Uganda’s Ambassador to Algeria has been using taxis for the last 8 years. “This is very embarrassing. Many other missions which still have a semblance of official representational &utility vehicles, have vehicles that are outdated, completely worn out”, he said.

Reacting to the report, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nkunyingi Muwada who also doubles as the (MP, Kyadondo East County, Wakiso NUP) requested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs submit a Foreign Policy to Parliament. According to the MP, the ministry promised to present to the House a policy last year but they haven’t. A foreign policy is the means by which a country interacts with other countries and international organizations. A foreign policy guides national governments’ diplomatic interactions and relationships with other countries. The Foreign Affairs State Minister, Hon.  Mulimba John, who also doubles as the (MP, Samia Bugwe County North, Busia District, NRM)  informed Parliament that the ministry has submitted a draft Foreign Policy proposal to the President, who serves as the chief diplomat. He added that the ministry will await the guidance of the chief diplomat on this matter. The Minister also emphasized the necessity of an additional Shs19 billion in funding for subscribing to international organizations and executing international treaties. “We need the support of this Parliament in having this funding availed”, he said. Mulimba stated that Uganda, as a member of the Non Aligned Movement, does not need to worry about having one representative for both Russia and Ukraine, as they are not involved in the issues of these two nations. “We are members of the Non Aligned Movement and are not in anyway involved in the issues of the two nations. There is no problem with having one representative for both”, he said.

Hon. Odur Jonathan (MP, Erute County South, Lira District, UPC) pointed out that foreign missions should be supported in providing vehicles for diplomats, while Hon. Nantongo Fortunate Rose (DWR, Kyotera District, DP) noted that Saudi Arabia, despite having 13 states and a core country in labor externalization, has only one vehicle for its mission, which is in poor condition. On the same note, Hon. Ezama Siraj Brahan (MP, Aringa County, Yumbe District, NRM) stated that foreign missions, such as our embassy in Pretoria, are not adequately facilitated to serve neighboring countries. He agreed with the report that these missions should be well facilitated to ensure our citizens in those countries receive the necessary services.The report of the Foreign Affairs sector was later approved by the House, with the Speaker instructing the minister to carefully review all the concerns raised by the MPs.

The House also discussed the report regarding the policy statements and budget estimates of the agriculture sector. The report was presented by Hon. Okori – Moe Janet Grace Akech, the Chairperson of the Committee, who also doubles as the (DWR, Abim District, NRM). She informed Parliament that a total of Shs132 billion is needed for the establishment of regional mechanization centers, equipment access, deployment, maintenance, repair, recruitment, and training of staff. Unfortunately, only Shs70 billion is currently available. The Committee called for provision of Shs259 billion  for procurement and deployment of 2OOO tractors and implement units distributed countrywide. Hon. Okori also told Parliament that the  Diary Development Authority is in need of Shs1 billion to provide assistance to commercial dairy farmers. “This is for production and demonstration in each milk shed, procure demonstration farm inputs like pasture seeds,milk cans, chaff cutters and milking machines”, she said. The Committee  observed that the persistent outbreaks of pests, vector and diseases especially FMD has been characterized by minimal budgets to address the problem, which explains why many districts have had escalating out breaks of FMD & PPR, which has affected the animal market both domestically & internationally. The Committee therefore asked  Gov’t to ensure that Shs758.72Bn is availed in the Ministry of Agriculture’s 2024/25 budget to address the issues of Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) in order to restore the integrity of Uganda’s animal sub-sector. The Committee further asked Gov’t to provide Shs32.5Bn for the establishment of a coffee traceability system by Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to register all players in the coffee sector, to ensure that Uganda is compliant with European Union’s requirements for deforestation free products. “The traceability system will register coffee value chain actors (farmers, nursery operators, processors, roasters and exporters). This System is for compliance with the EUDR regulation for deforestation-free products (EUD Regulation). UCDA requires Shs35Bn for establishment of this system but only Shs2.5Bn has been provided in the FY2024/2025 budget, leaving a gap of Shs32.5Bn”, she said.

The Committee also noted that most financial institutions invest less in agriculture due to the high risks involved, despite the fact that the establishment of the Agricultural Credit Facility (ACF) in 2009 as a risk-sharing facility with the primary goal of supporting the commercialization and modernization of agriculture has not adequately benefited small-scale farmers, who make up the majority of the sector’s players. As a result, MPs urged the government to expedite the establishment of an Agricultural Bank to address financial institutions’ reluctance to lend to farmers due to the high risks associated with the agriculture sector. This report was later adopted by the House with amendments.

Finally, the House also considered the report of the Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry on the budget estimates. This was presented by the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, Hon.  Lamwaka Catherine who also doubles as the (DWR, Omoro District, NRM). The committee noted that several entities within the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities are using their non-tax revenue at the point of collection in violation of the Public Finance and Management Act, 2015. The Committee recommended that the approval of Shs10 billion for lion breeding be halted due to the low return on investment and variations in the cost of Environmental Impact Assessments submitted by both Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), which quoted Shs250 million and Shs500 million, respectively. “UWEC presented a proposal to increase the population of lions in National Game Parks through breeding. Consequently, a budgetary proposal of Shs7Bn for In-situ Lion breeding with a target output of only 16 lions to be bred in a year was presented. Whereas the proposal is quite innovative, the proposed return-on investment was low. Both UWA and UWEC submitted budgets for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that cost Shs250Mn and Shs500M respectively, for lion breeding. The Committee however observed that it was UWEC alone that had the mandate of breeding lions within the vicinities managed by UWA”, she said. She added “The Committee recommends that UWEC should review its feasibility study and conduct benchmarks on the return-on-investment on in-situ lion breeding and present it for reconsideration during the next budget cycle for FY 2025/26. Additionally, the Committee recommends that UWEC and UWA should harmonize their mandates regarding lion breeding in National game parks and protected areas”.

The Committee also urged Gov’t to provide additional Shs4Bn to UTB to engage international and national media houses in production of positive media stories for improved destination image, following reports of drop in number of tourists from US, Europe and China visiting Uganda. “The National Development Plan targeted to cumulatively attract 281,760 International Tourist arrivals from US, Europe & China but only 67,252 arrivals were registered by the end of the first half of FY 2023/24. The U.S, Europe & China were key target source for leisure tourist who stay longer than business tourists. However, statistics show that international arrivals from the aforementioned areas have continue to drop. The UTB requires Shs4Bn to engage international & national media houses in production of positive tourism stories to improve destination perception in light of recent controversies that shade the destination in a bad light. However, this has remained unfunded”, she said.

Reacting to the report, Hon. Kabanda David (MP, Kasambya County, Mubende District, NRM), emphasized the need for the government to increase the allocation of funds towards the tourism sector. The MP believes that if the tax base is not expanded, it will result in an extra financial burden on traders and individuals who are unable to make substantial contributions to the country’s revenue. “Let us put more money in this sector because tourism alone can sustain the economy of this country”, he said. According to the State Minister for Tourism, Hon. Mugarra Martin Bahindika the country’s tourism potential cannot be effectively marketed like other countries due to the insufficient allocation of Shs10 billion for the sector. Meanwhile Hon. Kateshumbwa Dickson (MP, Sheema Municipality, Sheema District, NRM) said “Tourism possesses the capability to address the monetary issue we are discussing, yet we lack the necessary content to disseminate worldwide in order to promote our country. It is perplexing why our national parks lack dependable access to internet, water, and electricity”.

Other reports on budget estimates considered and adopted by the House include: report on the natural resources sector; defence and internal affairs sector.

The Speaker afterward adjourned the House to Friday, 12 April 2024 at 10.00 am

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