Today in Parliament/ 5th March 2024.

UPDATES FROM PARLIAMENT, TUESDAY 5TH MARCH 2024: Speaker Among addresses KCCA laborers’ payment issues; The Human-Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2023 tabled; Tayebwa – address the issue of nodding syndrome.

Dear Friends,

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

This is an update from the Parliament of Uganda marking the 16th 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, the Speaker welcomed members to the afternoon sitting.

Hon. Achieng Sarah Opendi (DWR, Tororo District, NRM) later tabled the Human-Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2023” for first reading. The Bill was referred to the Committee on Health for perusal and report back. The Human-Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2023, seeks to fill gaps caused by Uganda’s lack of a legal framework governing human-assisted reproductive technology. The Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2023, also seeks to establish the rights and responsibilities of those involved in human-assisted reproductive technology, as well as the rights of children born through technology, and to regulate embryo donation and storage. According to Hon. Sarah Opendi, the Bill also seeks to regulate the various fertility clinics that are operating and increasing in Uganda without any piece of legislation. “We have consulted stakeholders and to our surprise, many African countries that started these services 30 years ago do not have any legislation. Uganda will be one of the few countries where other countries will benchmark is this Bill is passed”, she said

The Human-Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2023 also seeks to provide for the designation of health units as fertility centers, and provide for the establishment of sperm and sperm banks within fertility centers. The proposed law will also designate the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council as the body responsible for the administration of the Act.

The House then moved on to receive a report on the operations and performance of UBC TV. This was presented by the Vice Chairperson of the Committee on ICT Hon. Ayoo Tonny who also doubles as the (MP, Kwania County, Kwania District). According to Hon. Ayoo Tonny, UBC has faced challenges in maintaining operations and has nearly lost its status as a leading broadcaster due to competition. He also told MPs that UBC TV owns over 42 pieces of land across the country. However, it was discovered that encroachers are constantly devising ways to acquire a portion or all of the land for personal use. Hon Tony Ayoo claimed that UBC’s lack of proper ownership documentation, uncleared roads, idle land, and unfenced-off areas put it at risk of grabbing. The Committee noted that UBC lacks sufficient human, technical, and financial resources to operate, monitor, and maintain its infrastructure. “Gov’t should enhance UBC budget to enable recruitment of the required human resource & acquisition of requisite equipment”, Ayoo said. To complete Phase III of the Digital Migration Project, the Committee proposed that the US$ 1 million debt owed to lntraset be paid as soon as possible so that satellite connections can be established for the 17 up-country sites. To improve national broadcaster coverage, the Committee urged the government to provide infrastructure that would allow all underserved areas to access UBS radio and television. The Committee recommended that the government allocate Shs7.5 billion to UBC for the provision of direct-to-home services.

The House also received a report by the Committee on ICT on the petition of the National Association of Broadcasters against the presidential directive to channel all government advertisements exclusively through.

Reacting to the reports tabled, the Chief Opposition Whip, Hon. Nambeshe John Baptist who also doubles as the (MP, Manjiya County, Bududa District, NUP) noted that the presidential directive to grant exclusive rights to UBC was unconstitutional. “This is common with presidential directives which are unconstitutional & have become extremely difficult to ensure compliance”, he said. Hon. Nsereko Muhammad (MP, Kampala Central Division, Kampala, INDP) on his part stated that the purpose of relaying parliament sittings live is to support the legislative agenda by transmitting information to remote areas. Meanwhile Hon. Nalule Asha Aisha Kabanda (DWR, Butambala District, NUP) urged the government to cease its interference in the operations of UBC TV and avoid turning it into a political organization. On the same note, Hon. Katuntu Abdu (MP, Bugweri County, Bugweri District, INDP) compared UBC to a bottomless pit, where money is invested without any return on investment. “There is nothing changing at UBC. They can’t even pay gratuity or salaries, or URA, the land is going…What is the return on the money we are investing in UBC?”, he said

Hon. Angura Fredrick (MP, Tororo County South, Tororo District, NRM) called on fellow MPs to rally behind UBC in order to facilitate the availability of affordable decoders. According to the MP, this will enable citizens to access a wide range of channels offered by the network. The Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa suggested that while it is prudent to support UBC, it should be given performance targets. According to Hon. Aber Lillian (DWR, Kitgum District, NRM) it is crucial to provide support to UBC. However, it is equally important for the leadership and administration of UBC to operate it as a profitable business that contributes revenue to the government. This will ensure transparency in financial investments and accountability in expenditure. The State Minister for ICT and National Guidance, Hon. Kabbyanga Godfrey Baluku Kiime confirmed that the presidential directive on sole advertisement to UBC was rescinded in a letter dated 15 August 2023. According to the Minister, UBC operates in 49 languages, with 11 radio stations and 4 TV stations. “Some of the radio stations are not breaking even but we must disseminate information and maintain them”, he said. The State Minister for Finance, Hon. Henry Musasizi Ariganyira who also doubles as the (MP, Rubanda East County, Rubanda District, NRM), stated that UBC received Shs24 billion in the Supplementary Budget for the current fiscal year.

Parliament later received the report of the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline on the proposed alignment of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament with the program-based budgeting framework of Gov’t. This was presented by the Committee chairperson, Hon. Katuntu Abdu. Parliament noted that program-based budgeting had not yet been aligned at all stages of the budget process, and that such alignment would require an amendment to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure to establish Program Committees.

Finally, Parliament debated the report of the Committee on Health on a field visit to Acholi sub-region to assess the prevalence of nodding syndrome which was presented last week. According to Hon. Okot Peter (MP, Tochi County, Omoro District, DP) there is food insecurity in areas affected by nodding syndrome because parents spend more time taking care of the children with nodding syndrome. Hon. Alum Santa Sandra Ogwang (DWR, Oyam District, NRM) said “We need to assign a special day to handle these children. If you have a child with nodding syndrome, then you can’t do any other work, you can’t go to the garden because you will find when the child has burnt”. Hon. Ojok Andrew Oulanyah (MP, Omoro County, Omoro District, NRM) also requested that the rehabilitation center for victims of nodding syndrome in Omoro be converted to a health center III to better serve the community, which often travels long distances for medical care. Meanwhile Hon. Lamwaka Catherine (DWR, Omoro District, NRM) urged the Ministry of Health to reassess the current state of nodding syndrome in Northern Uganda, citing new cases that contradict previous statements. Hon. Aciro Menya Paska (DWR, Pader District, INDP) on her part emphasized the need for more rehabilitation centers to support the victims.

Hon. Oneka Lit Denis Amere (MP, Kitgum Municipality, Kitgum District, FDC ) called on the government to renovate health facilities used to rehabilitate nodding syndrome victims. He stated that many of them have been covered in bushes and are no longer in use. Hon. Kamukama Benjamin (MP, Ruhaama East County, Ntungamo District, NRM) suggested ring-fencing billions of dollars from the Ministry of Science and Technology for research on nodding syndrome. The State Minister for PHC, Hon. Mugisa Margaret Muhanga who also doubles as the (MP, Fort Portal North Division, Fort Portal City, NRM) on her part noted that there is need to provide treatment to the victims of nodding syndrome. “2200 children have been reported. Out of these, some healed completely, others got married and had children and others even sat S.6 exams”, she said. She added that tackling nodding syndrome requires a multisectoral approach. “The Ministry of Gender has got to come in, OPM which deals in relief food has to come in to help these children find a proper diet”, the Minister said. Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa later requested the Gov’t Chief Whip, Hon. Obua Hamson, and the Acholi Parliamentary Group Chairperson to convene a multisectoral meeting to tackle nodding syndrome.

The Speaker afterwards adjourned the House sine die

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