Today in Parliament/ 28th February 2024

UPDATES FROM PARLIAMENT, WEDNESDAY 28TH FEBRUARY 2024: Speaker Among directs KCCA to clear casual workers’ arrears; Minister Otafiire summoned by parliament over relocation of Luzira Prison; MPS halt the abolition of NITA-U.

Dear Friends,

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

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 14th 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 criticized the Kagadi incident in which a government vehicle ran over a demonstrator and killed him instantly. The locals were protesting the poor state of the roads in Kagadi District. “I was dismayed by a video in which a government vehicle fatally ran over a person in Kagadi district. Such acts of lawlessness have no place in our society and I urge the relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure that Justice prevails. I convey my condolences to the bereaved family and pray that the Lord grants the deceased eternal rest”. she said. The Speaker also urged the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) to pay its casual workers several months in arrears. On Monday, a group of workers stormed Parliament in protest of their unpaid arrears by the government. Some of the workers claimed that they had been requesting payment for the past 45 months, but had been unsuccessful. “I want to urge the leadership of KCCA to ensure that the aggrieved persons are attended to because people can’t work without being paid, how are their families being looked after? We want those people to be paid because at least we know, money has always been released for wages”.

Reacting to the Speaker’s communication, Hon. Naluyima Betty Ethel (DWR, Wakiso District, NUP) brought to the attention of the House that local governments nationwide are facing similar challenges. She highlighted the issue of inadequate remuneration for casual laborers in various administrative units. Additionally, she pointed out that crucial funding from donors such as DEG from Germany and local funding under the Uganda Road Fund has not been disbursed, resulting in limited operations for local governments. “We pray that as we are handling KCCA laborers, we also look into the matter of staff at local governments and what the entities are generally going through, concerning what they are supposed to do as far as the decentralization role is concerned”. she said. On a similar note, Hon. Kangwagye Stephen Rwakanuma (MP, Bukanga County, Isingiro District, INDP) mentioned an engineering company under MBW Consulting Limited, that was contracted by Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) but has not been paid. “The company did good work and UIA verified that the work was neatly done, but they did not pay them. The company has tried all avenues to pay their workers and meet bills but they have failed. It will be good for them to be heard by the Ministry of Finance”. he said.

Hon. Kunihira Agnes Abwoli (MP, Worker’s Representative, NRM) called for a re-examination of the Employment (Amendment) Bill, 2023 that sought to streamline the welfare of casual laborers in the country. “We passed this Bill but we have not received any response on it to date. We need to protect such workers because they do not benefit in terms of saving with NSSF, getting leave among others”. she said. The State Minister for KCCA and Metropolitan Affairs, Hon. Kyofatogabye Kabuye) stated that casual laborers at the Authority are demanding pending payment for work done over the last four months. The Speaker later instructed the Minister to submit a comprehensive report to the House.

Raising on matters of national importance, Hon. Mbwatekamwa Gaffa (MP, Igara County West, Bushenyi District, NRM) expressed concern over the government’s decision-making process without consulting the people’s representative. “The story about the relocation of Luzira prison has been in social media but I have not seen any minister or the Prime Minister coming to this House to explain if it is true”. he said. He also stated that he had two letters already in the public domain regarding a presidential instruction to Otafiire to hold consultative meetings on the relocation of the Luzira prison. “The letter by the President on relocation of the prison is dated 10 July 2022, and the letter by Otafiire inviting stakeholders in regards to the directive is dated 22 February 2022”. he said. In response, the Speaker asked Prime Minister Nabbanja to summon the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Kahinda Otafiire to parliament to explain the relocation of Luzira Prison.

MPs also voted against a government bill that sought to dissolve the National Information Technology Authority Uganda and transfer its functions to the Ministry of Information, Communication, Technology, and National Guidance. The National Information Technology Authority Uganda (Amendment) Bill, 2024, was one of several bills introduced by the cabinet in February 2021 to implement the government’s policy of rationalizing government agencies and public expenditures. The government’s rationale for merging agencies is to improve efficiency, avoid duplication of services, and reduce wasteful government spending. The Committee on ICT, which reviewed the Bill, recommended that the Authority’s mainstreaming be postponed because there was no duplication of mandate between the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance and NITA-U, which demonstrated its financial contribution through the issuance of licenses, permits, and commercialization of the national backbone infrastructure. The Committee also noted that NITA-U had collected approximately Shs200 billion over the last ten years and expected to collect Shs150 billion over the next five years.

According to Hon. Ayoo Tonny, Deputy Chairperson of the ICT Committee, while the Committee supports agency rationalization, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance failed to demonstrate the Authority’s financial drain on the consolidated fund. “The Ministry was tasked with policy or strategic leadership and supervision of the entire Ministry while NITA-U was mandated to regulate and coordinate and regulate ICT services in Uganda in the context of social and economic development”. he said. He justified that NITA-U is the only IT business implementing arm of the government, and keeping it as an autonomous entity will allow consolidation of all government information technology efforts. “The Committee recommends that NITA-U is retained as a semi-autonomous arm of government and the Bill for dissolution of NITA-U be rejected by the whole House”. he said

The Speaker afterwards adjourned the House to Thursday, 29th February 2024 at 2:00PM

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