Today in Parliament | 23rd April 2024

Today in Parliament | 23rd April 2024

Greetings from AFLI and the Parliament of Uganda!

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 29th 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 indicated that Parliament will begin reviewing the proposals in the Tax Bills this week. Among the options under discussion is the government’s desire to impose a 5% capital gains tax on non-business assets such as land and rental properties in urban regions. There is also a proposal to charge UGX 500 for every 50 kg bag of construction materials like lime, as well as a 0.5% fee for cash withdrawals from agent banking and taxes on gasoline items, among other things. “If by God’s grace, we finish the RAPEX Bills today, then we shall start on the Tax Bills. We need to take our time on the tax bills, even if we pass one bill a day, we should be able to handle them systematically”, she said.

Speaker Anitah Among also led Parliament in paying tribute to former First Lady Nalongo Katalina Zawedde, widow of former Ugandan Head of State Paulo Frobisher Muwanga Seddugge Muyanja. “I have been informed of the demise of the former first lady, Nnalongo Kasalina Zawedde Muwanga, widow of the 6th President of Uganda, the late Paulo Muwanga. On behalf of Parliament and my behalf, I relay our condolences to the bereaved family and all loved ones. May her soul rest in eternal peace”, she said.

Reacting to the Speaker’s communication, the LOP, Hon. Ssenyonyi Joel Besekezi (MP, Nakawa West Division, Kampala, NUP) queried the government’s appointment of assistant RDCs in light of the recent rationalization strategy. “You can’t preach water & drink wine, what role are assistant RDCs going to play that RDCs & deputies are not playing?”, he said. The State Minister for Industry, Hon.Bahati David, stated that funds allocated by Parliament for the current Financial Year were used to employ assistant RDCs. The Speaker later asked the Minister for the Presidency to provide a report on the recent appointments of RDC, RCCs, and their deputies. This request comes in response to public concerns regarding the qualifications of certain appointees. The report is expected to be delivered tomorrow.

The National Bureau for NGOs was approved by Parliament to become a department under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. MPs accused the NGO Bureau’s present staff of manipulating bureaucracy, which has hindered the monitoring of NGOs’ activities in Uganda. In support of the mainstreaming of the NGO Bureau to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Hon. Okeyoh Peter (MP, Bukooli Island County, Namayingo District, NRM) told MPs that although the NGOs’ Bureau received Shs4.4 billion for its operations, Shs3.4 billion of that amount was used for rent. Hon. Modoi Isaac (MP, Lutseshe County, Bududa District, NRM) underlined the value of mainstreaming, saying that it is essential to advancing the nation’s goal. According to the MP, permitting non-governmental organizations to operate autonomously from the government may cause uncertainty and impede the country’s efforts to protect its citizens. As a result, he strongly advocated for mainstreaming. On the other hand, Hon. Opendi Sarah Achieng (DWR, Tororo District, NRM) questioned why the government hadn’t made clear how the mainstreaming of the NGO Bureau would affect the current employees. “I am aware of some NGOs that have been operating and doing things that are contrary to our own values and cultures here, but I believe police and other agencies have been dealing with those other NGOs.  My concern is that there is dual registration, most of the NGOs register with the NGO Bureau but also register with Uganda Registration Service Bureau and the certificate of financial implication that was issued doesn’t tell us how much we are going to save. So I find the certificate of financial implication defective because it doesn’t tell us the actual cost of this rationalization”, she said.

Hon. Kaaya Christine Nakimwero (DWR, Kiboga District, NUP) urged Parliament to intervene and protect the National Bureau for NGOs. “We are battling with the issue of timely inspection when you look at the NGOs that have annoyed us, that bring in funny money, it will be difficult for timely inspection of their activities and fake monies. We should be strengthening them (NGOs) to ensure that they maintain their watchdog function”, she said. Hon. Basalirwa Asuman (MP, Bugiri Municipality, Bugiri District, JEEMA) on his part noted that “I am not so sure whether we have many experiences dealing with NGO Bureau, getting licenses, information or renewal from the NGO Bureau is extremely difficult. The fact that the basic things are being a challenge in that Bureau, I don’t think its stay is still justified. If the government is saying they can accommodate an agency as a department, within its systems and procedures, who are you to say no, that will not happen?”.

Parliament also approved the proposal by Gov’t to mainstream the National Library of Uganda as a department in the Ministry of Education and Sports. Hon. Twesigye John Ntamuhiira the Chairperson of Parliament’s Education Committee informed MPs that the integration of the National Library of Uganda into the mainstream is expected to lead to cost savings for the Government. These savings will be achieved by reducing the wage bill and personnel-related expenses. It is projected that the savings will amount to UGX 1.282 billion in the fiscal year 2024/25 and UGX 1.622 billion in the fiscal year 2025/26.

The integration of the National Physical Planning Board and National Population Council into the National Planning Authority was stopped by Parliament due to concerns raised by MPs regarding the validity of the financial implication certificates issued by the Ministry of Finance. The government argued that the National Population Council would save them Shs11.9 billion if they were integrated into the mainstream. Furthermore, the National Physical Planning Board would save Shs4.5 billion by mainstreaming. Nevertheless, the costs associated with broadening the NPA’s mandate were not mentioned. Hon.Nsereko Muhammad (MP, Kampala Central Division, Kampala, INDP) cautioned against the proposal to combine the roles of the National Physical Planning Board with NPA, stating that it could potentially transform Uganda into the largest slum globally, despite the nation already facing challenges with inadequate physical planning. “The National Planning Authority’s cardinal role is advising on economic micro and macro policy of the country. The role of the National Physical Planning Board is particularly on land use, management and distribution of resources. How will history judge us that we sat here to merge responsibility from a physical planning body to a micro and macro-economic Authority?”, he said. 

He added “Is it that there is expertise in the NPA for land use management and distribution? People at the National Physical Planning Board have given expertise that people at the National Planning Authority do not have. Physical planning is specific and it requires a body of professionals lest Uganda will go down into history as the biggest slum in the world and the reason is that we don’t take what is cardinal as important”.

The LOP, Hon. Sssenyonyi Joel Besekezi voiced his concerns about the government’s justification for the difficulties with planning. He said he was slightly concerned by the government’s assertion that the organizations were out of sync because of their disparate locations. Ssenyonyi stressed that he anticipated improved communication and collaboration between these groups now that they were housed together. He went on to say that he expected the government to provide better and more rational reasoning. “All the while, the compelling argument has been cutting down on Government expenditure, but now that you are saying, they aren’t listening to each other, because they are in different locations, then you need to be better organized as a Government. That would mean for me, that even under one roof, there will still be challenges. You will say we want to cut down on Government expenditure, but we want to ensure efficiency, ” he added.

Hon. Atwijukire Dan Kimosho (MP, Kazo County, Kazo District, NRM) noted that “NPA is at the policy level, now, you are talking about a country whose land use is the most disorganized, people build on trenches, and you are saying, you want to take it to NPA. This word ‘Planning’ we should condemn it, it has confused us. I want to move that we should look at this word (Planning). I am not against mainstreaming it, my concern is, where are we taking it because we are moving as misguided missiles on this, we should consider our position”.

The UNRA Act (Repeal) Bill, 2024, failed because MPs voted against it, insisting that UNRA be preserved as a semi-autonomous body.

The Speaker afterward adjourned the House to Wednesday, 24th April 2024 at 2:00 pm.

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