Today in Parliament | 11TH OCTOBER 2023

Today in Parliament | 11TH OCTOBER 2023

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 5th Sitting of the 2nd 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 Presiding Officer read a letter to MPs from Speaker Anitah Among honouring the change in FDC leadership Parliament in which Hon. Yusuf Nsibambi takes over the mantle of FDC Party Whip from Hon. Ibrahim Nganda Ssemujju. “The Secretary-General has via his letter on 7th October 2023 written to me communicating, confirming the decision of the FDC delegates conference appointing Yusuf Nsibambi as FDC Party Whip in Parliament. In the circumstances, therefore, I do accept the designation of Nsibambi as FDC Party Whip,” Anitah said. 

Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa also asked Prime Minister, Robina Nabbanja to bring a statement responding to allegations that security forces used brutality & barbaric methods to arrest leaders & carry out a siege at NUP offices. This was after Opposition MPs vowed not to return to Parliament until Gov’t apologizes for the brutality, they suffered at the hands of security forces. The Presiding Officer later told the MPs that a Classified Committee of the House would take over the investigations into the proposal to introduce digital number plates. “I held a meeting with the Attorney General and Minister for Security where a formal complaint was made. This was a classified procurement which we are handling in a manner not provided for in the PFMA,” said Tayebwa. Tayebwa clarified that after a Classified Committee handles a matter, the report is handed over to the Speaker of Parliament who handles it with the head of the Executive. “It is the duty of the Speaker to ensure that the issues of concern raised are followed up to the letter,” Tayebwa added. He tasked the Minister for Security and other relevant ministries to appear before the Classified Committee that will interrogate the matter on digital number plates.

Reacting to the Speaker’s communication, Mawokota South MP, Hon. Nsibambi Yusuf said “I take this appointment from my party as a very big challenge, you can tell and see what is going on, so it is my duty to galvanize the Party and also bring some sense of decency in the debates we are making in Parliament as FDC. I promise to work with all members and my whipping isn’t like I am a supervisor but I will try to ensure that we have common positions, meet or address issues that affect society than playing to the gallery”. Hon. Macho Godfrey (MP, Busia Municipality), on his part, bragged about the miracles done by the god of NRM, saying all political parties that have had alliances with NRM have seen some of its MPs appointed to ministerial positions, and therefore, the only thing left to confirm the strength of the god of NRM is if the new FDC Whip is appointed to a ministerial position. “The God of NRM is working, the god of NRM started working when UPC was put in charge of the Ministry of Gender, and then the god of NRM worked when the Democratic Party was put under the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Today on the Parliament floor, Nsibambi has just said he is ready to work with NRM which means he should be ready for a ministry so that we know that the god of NRM works totally,” Macho said

Raising on a matter of national importance, Kampala Central Division MP Nsereko Muhammad castigated today’s KCCA operation to check motorcycle taxis commonly known as Boda Boda, claiming it is being executed in an improper way and that many of the cyclists have complained of extortion. On her part, Hon. Paska Aciro (Indp., District Woman Representative, Pader) also revealed to the House that a senior education official had notified her during the recent Teachers’ Day celebration that some of the teachers recruited in July this year had not yet been deployed. “As we remember the theme was about the education we need for our children. I believe that our children are not given access to education because the teachers are not deployed,” she said. 

In response, the Minister of State for Education and Sports (Primary Education), Dr. Joyce Moriku, blamed the shortage of teachers in schools across the country on budget shortfalls. She said that the budget for deployment was Shs50 billion but the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development released only Shs32 billion, leaving a shortfall of Shs18 billion. “Last financial year, my ministry recruited over 5,000 staff out of which, over 3,000 were teaching staff. More than half were deployed and close to 2,000 teaching and non-teaching staff have not yet been not been deployed,” Moriku said.  Hon. Felix Okot Ogong (NRM, Dokolo South County), on his part said that three schools in his constituency, including Kwera, Kangai and St. John Secondary School were facing the same challenges. “Students are very concerned about their future. They are paying school fees, but they do not have teachers. This will affect their future, the future of the country,” he said. In response, the Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development (General Duties) Hon. Henry Musasizi, asked for more time to harmonise with the education ministry. “We can release what was appropriated but I request that we are given time to harmonise before I make a statement,” said Musasizi.

Hon. Enos Asiimwe (NRM, Kabula County) on his part, called for a comprehensive statement on the status of the education sector. “We all have the same challenges. May I suggest that the minister presents a statement so that we can all bring out all our problems,” he said.  Kampala Central Division Member of Parliament, Hon. Muhammad Nsereko, also asked the ministers to clearly state areas that have shortfalls so that these can be addressed during appropriation. “Our young generation can only be guaranteed a secure future if they are well educated. Parents are paying fees for zero service, which means that is proper abuse of office, Nsereko said. In response, Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa directed the two ministers to hold an inter-ministerial meeting and update the House on Wednesday, 18 October 2023.

The House then moved on to consider a Statement by the Hon. Minister of Health on the Status of COVID-19 in the Country. Minister Aceng Jane Ruth revealed that between Jan. and 30 Sept. 2023, Uganda recorded 1,748 cases of COVID-19 with a monthly average of 194 cases. The Minister further revealed that there’s been a drastic reduction in COVID-19 cases from June to September, with no admissions of severe cases or deaths. In addition, the Minister said Kampala, Wakiso, Masaka, Kisoro, Gulu, Mbarara, and Luwero have the highest number of cases, above 30 cases from Jan. to 30 Sept. 2023. Aceng also told MPs that 59% of the population 18yrs and above had received at least 2 doses of the vaccine, while 6% of 12 – 17-year-olds had received 2 doses of the vaccine. “This coverage is below our target of 28.5 million eligible Ugandans who are up to date with their vaccination against COVID-19.” Aceng said. Furthermore, Minister Aceng said the worst of COVID-19 seems to be over, but the medium and long-term effects of those previously infected remain a challenge that the MoH is addressing. Finally, Minister Aceng told MPs that the WHO in concurrence with the International Health Regulation Committee downgraded the Covid-19 pandemic from a public health emergency of international concern to an ongoing and established health issue.

Reacting to the statement, Bukanga North County MP, Hon. Byanyima Nathan rejected the statement by Gov’t on the possible emergence of COVID-19 in Uganda, saying the Ministry of Health has become a financial bottomless pit & it is time the Ministry stopped using the pandemic as an excuse to siphon taxpayers’ money. “COVID-19 is no longer a threat. The Ministry of Health has become a bottomless pit. People are misusing the money, because who can be vaccinated now? The issue at stake is cancer, people are dying of cancer. Don’t come here with a flowery statement and you think some of us will accept it, no. enough is enough. What is killing people isn’t Covid-19, what people contributed you ate it. Everything disappeared,” Byanyima said.  Buvuma Islands county MP, Hon. Migadde Robert Ndugwa on his part asked the Ministry of Health to explain whether  COVID-19   in Uganda is nowadays presidential which could explain why testing is only done when guests are going to meet the President. “It is a fact we must accept that nowadays the way Covid-19 testing is being done, it is more political. Testing is only done when we are going to meet the President and even if there is a national function that is going to bring people from many parts of the country and provided the President isn’t going to be there, there is no testing. I really want to understand, is the COVID-19 we have presidential?” Migadde said. 

Mbale City Woman Rep Nakayenze Connie also asked the Ministry of Health to update the country on how far Gov’t had gone with the manufacture of its vaccines due to the mistrust towards foreign vaccines. “All the elderly men and women who were vaccinated died, including my father. I don’t know whether it was because of the vaccines or their time had come,” Nakayenze said. While Terego DWR Hon. Obigah Rose asked the Ministry of Health to explain why it has become a norm for drugs to expire at their watch, “It brings a chill to my blood when I hear that vaccines are getting spoilt. It has become the normal thing to hear that drugs get expired. Can we really understand how we can make good use of our drugs before they expire?”.

The House also later received a Statement on the implementation of the Physical Planning Act, presented by the Minister of Lands, Hon. Nabakooba Judith. It should be noted that the Physical Planning Act, among others, established a National Physical Planning Board, and the making and approval of physical development plans, and for the applications for development permission.  Minister Nabakooba, highlighted challenges faced in the implementation of the Act, saying that while govt has made an effort to support physical planning in the country, a lot remains undone. The Minister cited gross underfunding at local govt levels,  human resource, equipment, and training gaps; ineffective coordination at central and local govt levels; and weak enforcement mechanisms. As a result, Minister Nabakooba recommended the establishment of a conditional grant for the physical planning function for all local governments; enhancing the budget of Ministry of Lands. She also recommended a directive to Ministries, Departments, and Agencies to seek physical planning guidance on all projects with a spatial component.

Tororo Municipality MP, Hon. Apollo Yeri Ofwono, later introduced a Private Member’s Bill: the Rainwater (Harvesting and Storage) Bill, 2023. Hon. Ofwono noted that there’s no legal framework providing for and regulating the compulsory harvesting and storage of rainwater in Uganda despite the abundance of the natural resource. Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa asked the Committee on Natural Resources to work with the Committee on Physical Infrastructure and ascertain if the Bill can be incorporated into the Building Control Bill. Parliament later approved the motion moved by Hon. Apollo Yeri Ofwono to introduce a Private Member’s Bill: the Rainwater (Harvesting and Storage) Bill, 2023.

The Speaker afterward adjourned the House to Thursday, 12th October 2023 at 2.00 pm.

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