This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 3rd Sitting of the 3rd Meeting of the 3rd Session of the 11th Parliament. This Sitting was chaired by the Deputy Speaker Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa. In his communication, Speaker Tayebwa Speaker Tayebwa thanked MPs for standing together to ensure the fallen legislator Hon. Cecilia Ogwal gets a decent sendoff on Saturday. “Thank you for turning up in big numbers in Alito for burial”, he said.
Reacting to the Speaker’s Communication, Hon. Opendi Sarah Achieng (DWR, Tororo District, NRM) said “You excused yourself from the burial and indicated that you had an official function to attend. The Vice President while giving her speech informed the mourners that you left to go and attend a wedding. I felt extremely disappointed and embarrassed and I don’t know how to describe it, whether that isn’t a scandal because ideally, the host of this whole arrangement was Parliament” In response Tayebwa said “What has surprised me is that Hon.Opendi was with me today, she never indicated such an issue to me. I wrote a chit to the Vice President, informing her of the issues I have, and seeking her guidance. I was born in a way that I respect people, if she took it that way, I am sorry. We buried our colleague in peace and I don’t want the burial of our colleague who taught us to be humble to be overridden by whatever individual who has issues. I will personally look for the Vice President and explain it to her. I am sorry about this”.
However, several MPs including Hon. Ssemujju Nganda (MP, Kira Municipality, Wakiso District, FDC) and Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi (MP, Butambala County, Butambala District, NUP) expressed dissatisfaction with the way Opendi handled the matter and demanded to have her malicious remarks to be expunged from the Hansard. “I find the statements by Hon. Opendi malicious. As much as politics is a game of the beast, we must give it the level of decency that it deserves. There isn’t anywhere in our Rules of Procedure that a Speaker can’t leave a function. For one to come and use this platform and impute the wrong motive is a statement that should be expunged from the record”. said Muwanga.
The Deputy Speaker also asked the Clerk to Parliament to expunge remarks by Geoffrey Macho (MP, Busia Municipality) who accused the National Unity Platform of tribalism, after he alleged that most of the MPs appointed in the latest Opposition Leadership are from Buganda. “I tend to agree these aren’t issues to do with Parliament. Parliament should be for issues to do with Parliament, how a Political Party chooses its people, is its issue. Please expunge this from the records. Parliament doesn’t have any role it plays in the appointment of the Shadow Cabinet, they don’t come here for approval, they don’t justify to us whom they have appointed and why, so please spare us that”, Tayebwa said. The Deputy Speaker’s decision followed a request made by Aisha Kabanda (DWR, Butambala District, NUP) who asked to have Macho’s remarks expunged on grounds that they were malicious. “Macho has made a statement that is extremely malicious and ill-intentioned. I am the Deputy Secretary General of NUP and I find it extremely unfitting for me to continue speaking when someone speaks very maliciously and walks out as though he simply came to make a malicious statement and walk away. When you look at our front bench, it is well-balanced. I pray that you find it befitting to expunge this statement because I find it to be very malicious and only playing a tribal card to malign the Opposition”. Kabanda said.
Raising on matters of national importance, Hon. Okupa Elijah (MP, Kasilo County, Serere District, INDP) expressed concern about the government’s delayed takeover of some schools, as approved in this running budget. “It is now 7 months, no teacher has been recruited in those schools and they have also not been coded”. In response, the State Minister of Higher Education, Hon. John Muyingo said the matter was presented to the cabinet & they have been directed to look for money to ensure that “each and every Ugandan child of school-going age is enabled to go to school until he or she completes the cycle. On the same note, Hon. Ssewungu Joseph Gonzaga (MP, Kalungu West County, Kalungu District, NUP) said ” Parliament has pronounced itself on several occasions on rising fees. As we talk now, parents are being charged UGX 3m for a nursery kid and the government is watching. The Minister should come out clearly and explain why parents are being overcharged”.
In response, the Presiding Officer said, “In this budget, we must look for money and bridge the gap so charges in government-aided secondary schools and primary schools are stopped”. Hon. Ngompek Linos (MP, Kibanda County North, Kiryandongo District, NRM) brought to the attention of the House a letter from AfDB threatening to suspend the disbursement of US$288m to KCCA for the reconstruction of city roads, effective 1st Feb 2024 over failure to provide counterpart funding, etc. In response, State Minister for Finance, Henry Musasizi Arignayira who is the (MP, Rubanda East County, Rubanda District, NRM) said the matter has been resolved with AfDB and gov’t has now provided counterpart funding. “If you check in the Quarter 3 release, we have provided UGX 20bn for this purpose”, Musasizi said. Speaker Tayebwa later said the matter involving KCCA and AfDB does not only involve counterpart funding but also other critical issues of Project Affected Persons (PAPs) and the environment. “Let the Committee summon the Ministers responsible and report back to this House on Thursday”. Tayebwa said.
Minister Katumba Wamala Edward later presented the Civil Aviation Authority (Amendment) Bill 2024 for the first reading. The Bill seeks to amend the CAA Act. Cap. 354 to bring it into conformity with the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention). The bill seeks to provide for the delegation of powers to inspectors to have unrestricted access to aircraft, aerodromes, and aviation facilities; including cargo and records of aviation organizations under Uganda Civil Aviation Authority. The bill will also enable Uganda Civil Aviation Authority to recognize agreements of third-party states who are signatories to Article 83 Bis of the Chicago Convention, relating to the transfer of functions and duties; and to prescribe additional offenses. According to the Minister, Wamala, the Bill is intended to ensure Uganda’s compliance and satisfactory performance in the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) that commenced on 6th September 2023 and to ensure the safety and security of Uganda’s Aviation Sector. The Bill was later referred to the Committee on Physical Infrastructure for scrutiny and report back.
Debate on the report of the Budget Committee on the National Budget Framework Paper for FY 2024/2025 was also resumed. Responding to the minority report on abuse of tax exemptions, State Minister for Finance, Henry Musasizi said the law provides the minister powers to pay taxes on behalf of certain strategic investments notably manufacturing, including private industrial parks. On conflicting numbers on public debt, the Minister said as of June 2023, Uganda’s debt stock stood at Shs86.751 trillion comprising Shs34.545 trillion of domestic debt and Shs52.206 trillion as external debt. “We agree that debt stock levels have gone up in recent years as government took a deliberate approach to frontload investments in infrastructure projects & capital development and manage the effect of Covid-19”. Musasizi said. The LOP, Hon. Ssenyonyi Joel Besekezi who is also the (MP, Nakawa West Division, Kampala, NUP) on his part said there is a need to roll up sleeves to fight corruption. “We sometimes sanitize this evil by giving it flowery names like corruption, misappropriation. These guys are thieves & we hope government will take serious action as opposed to talking”, the LOP said. He also added, “We tend to focus a great deal on foreign investors, we give them free land, tax holidays for several years, and of late, we are even guaranteeing them money. What kind of investors are those?”. The LOP also expressed concern about the state of Kampala’s roads. “Can we address these issues and pay attention to the roads in Kampala? I know there were a few roads constructed during the NAM Conferences but we need to work on all the other roads”. the LOP said.
Hon. Kamateneti Josyline (DWR, Ntungamo District, NRM) called for fairness and equity in the allocation of resources for the different sectors. On his part, Hon. Ndeezi Alex (MP, PWD Representative, NRM) called for compliance with the issuance of the Certificate of Gender and Equity. “Some ministries & agencies are not complying with the provisions on this. This is key as it provides for the provision of funds for all genders and groups”. Ndeezi said. Hon. Odur Jonathan (MP, Erute County East, Lira District, UPC) also said “In budgeting, you need to be transparent, equitable and open. I am tired of approving a Budget Framework Paper for a few MPs. We need to have schools, health centres and roads for all constituencies around the country”. While Hon. Ruyonga Joseph (MP, Hoima West Division, Hoima City, NRM) said communities in Hoima are becoming suspicious about the delays in the issuance of certificates of land compensation.
The House later approved the Budget Committee report on the NBFP FY 2024/25.
The Speaker afterward adjourned the House to Wednesday, 31st January 2024 at 2.00pm.