Plenary sat with Rt. Hon. Speaker Anitah Among chairing. In her communication, She reminded the Committee on Finance, Planning, and Economic Development to finalize the tax bills such that the house can conclude on the budget. On the Coffee Deal, she assured the house and the public that the report of the Committee of Trade on the coffee deal will be presented to the house at any time. “I have heard a lot of sentiments from my members and the public about the Coffee deal report, nobody should imagine we are suffocating the report, we are here for the people out there. The report will be presented to this house”, She said.
Raising on a point of national importance, Hon. Kazibwe Bashir (Kawempe South MP, NUP) raised the issue of continued harassment of Ugandans providing labour in the Middle East. He said the government through its Embassies and Consulates needs to provide protection to the young ladies working in those countries.
Hon. Yona Musinguzi (Ntungamo Municipality, NRM) weighed in on the need for the Government to pay all its suppliers and contractors. While on his part, Hon. Kateshumbwa Dicksons (MP Sheema Municipality, NRM) appealed to the government to come up with a policy and a clear guideline to solve the issue of domestic arrears. He was also concerned about domestic borrowing by the government, which he said, was greatly affecting the economy. On a separate matter, Hon. Silwany Solomon (Bukooli County Central MP, NRM) raised concern over the looming threat of displacement of residents of Mawanga Parish, Buwunga sub-country by a Company called Rwenzori Rear Minerals following the discovery of Minerals.
On another matter, Busia Municipality MP, Macho Geoffrey, (Indp) appealed to the Government to allocate more resources towards Mental Health. He also underscored the need for counselling services to address Mental Health. Speaker Anitah Among also weighed in on the need to have counselling services to help mitigate mental health challenges in the Country. In response, Dr. Charles Ayume (Koboko Municipality MP, NRM) and Health Committee Chair said that they were proposing to have Mental Health captured as one of the non-Communicable diseases in the Public Health (Amendment) Bill. He said that this move would help to prioritise Mental Health. On his part, Hon. Komakech Christopher (Aruu County MP, Indp) said, “Mental Health will not speak for itself unless we members stand and speak for these “sick” individuals”.
On another matter, Hon. Macho Geoffrey (MP Busia Municipality, Indp.) blamed the Finance Minister Hon. Matia Kasaijja for using media houses 2 resolve issues that are before Parliament. “If the issue is before the house, come here and we see who is the man then using media houses to resolve issues that are supposed to be settled in Parliament”, he said.
On another matter, Members of Parliament were concerned that schools were charging higher examination fees other than prescribed by the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB). In response, the State Minister for Education and Sports (Sports) Hamson Obua said schools charging extra fees would be handled on a case by case basis. In response, Hon. Mwijukye Francis (Buhweju county, FDC) was concerned that the Ministry of Education and Sports had failed to use its mandate to come up with regulations on school fees that are enforceable. He said that the Ministry had only come up with circulars that were not enforceable. He asked the Minister of Education to present the regulations on fees increment.
In response Hon. Hamson Obua told the house that the Ministry was aware of its mandate to regulate school fees. He said that the Ministry had already embarked on the process of coming up with a statutory instrument for school fees regulation. He further said that once the Ministry had completed the process internally, the same statutory document on school fees regulation would be presented before the cabinet and later before the house. On his part Hon. Joseph Ssewungu Gonzaga (Kalungu West, NUP) was concerned by the habit of some schools which take in students in Senior one or five and later sieve them at candidate classes for not getting a certain average. He said that such students were being advised to find other schools. He said that this habit was growing in schools and was very dangerous as it had a financial implication on the parents.
Next on the Order Paper was a statement by the Minister of Finance on the status of compensation of the Ugandan – South Sudan traders. The Minister said, “I will negotiate with the Government of South Sudan that the companies which have been verified are included in the agreement and then I will come back here and have them paid”. He further said that “When we want to pay, something else happens. we are also constrained by cash flows”. In response, Hon. Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo DWR, FDC) one of her part said, “Government cannot say they have no money to pay the 23 companies. Parliament passed that money. Was their money diverted? They must tell us where the money went and tell us why you sent it to another entity”. Which prompted the Speaker to ask, “Do you want to tell me that you are not going to pay these people because we don’t have money?”. “We committed to pay these people”, she asserted. The Speaker granted the Finance Minister up to the end of June 2022 to present the addendum to the Memorandum of Understanding for payment of the Uganda-South Sudan traders.
Next on the Order Paper, The Chairperson of the Adhoc Committee on the Cabinet decision to rationalize government agencies, Hon. Nathan Byanyima presented their report. The committee’s terms of reference were to examine the rationale for the mainstreaming and merger of government agencies and conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the mainstreaming and merger of government agencies, among others. Hon Byanyima said that on 22nd February 2O21, under minute no. 43 (CT 2021) Cabinet took a decision that certain government agencies, commissions and authorities be merged, others mainstreamed and others rationalized.
This was in a bid to facilitate efficient and effective service delivery. This action had generally been referred to as the “rationalization of government agencies”. The Background to rationalization came after the President of Uganda raised concerns about the existence of several agencies in Uganda which appeared to be duplicating the roles of government departments, a burden on the treasury, with undifferentiated and overlapping roles. In so doing, the President asked whether it would not be fair to consolidate, downsize, rationalize and pay well non-commercial portions of state employees. The President also asked whether it would not be better to consolidate the public service employees into two categories. Those that support policy, regulation and implementation; and those that make money by running a few public enterprises as business entities. The President asked for practical recommendations on public institutions to ensure the efficiency of government in service delivery.
Following this, at the 23rd Sitting of the 1st Meeting of the 1st Session of the 11th Parliament held on Thursday 2nd September 2O21, Parliament constituted an Adhoc Committee to inquire into the rationalization and merger of Government Agencies with a view of establishing whether the exercise would improve service delivery for socio-economic transformation of the country.
The committee noted that the process started with the abolition of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) with its functions and budget transferred to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. Hon. Byanyima noted, however, that the criterion used to merge some agencies and maintain others was not clear. Some poor-performing agencies like the Uganda Railways Corporation, and Uganda Air Cargo Corporation were retained. “This suggests that there was no scientific study that informed the rationalization exercise”, he said. He further said that the agencies were not distinguished on the basis of wastage of public funds, duplication of functions and inefficiencies. “There is even a greater risk that some of the highly qualified staff in some of the agencies that are scheduled for mainstreaming will not join the mainstream civil service in favour of the private sector”, the Committee report noted.
The Committee further noted that Cabinet took a decision to scrap the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) of its semi-autonomous status and transfer its functions to the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF). The committee recommended that UCDA be retained as a semi-autonomous agency. In doing this the Committee noted that mainstreaming UCDA with MAAIF would negatively affect the achievements Uganda had attained in coffee production and export and would negatively affect our access to the international market and would stunt Uganda’s economic growth opportunities. The committee noted that this is in an exact manner that Uganda’s tea was affected when the Uganda Tea Authority was abolished. As a result of abolishing the Uganda Tea Authority, Uganda tea was being sold by auction at Mombasa at a cheap price and branded as tea from other countries. The committee also recommended that the function relating to marriage that is currently under the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) be transferred to National Identity and Registration Services (NIRA) so that NIRA is enabled to have a register of the complete life of a person from birth, marriage and death.
However, the Committee noted that rationalization of government agencies alone would not yield sustainable results unless the entire government was reviewed & rationalized. “The working environment in the ministries must be improved with attractive remuneration to match the salaries offered by agencies”, the report noted further. It further noted that the problems that the President raised which eventually led to the decision of the Cabinet to rationalize agencies were narrowly defined to be left to design and human resource issues only. The Adhoc Committee further noted that the rationalization study, if at all it was done, did not benefit from the views of all the relevant stakeholders. The Report noted that consultation is an old tested methodology for policy reviews, and is actually a legal requirement in Uganda. The Committee was informed by the many agencies it interacted with, that they were not consulted and involved in the rationalization study.
The debate on the report on the merger of agencies was deferred with the Speaker granting the Minister for Public Service two months to report back on the cabinet position.
The House was adjourned to Wednesday 11th May 2022 at 2:00 pm.