Plenary sessions suspended

By Vision Reporter

Parliament suspended plenary sessions to give the committees of the House time to finish their analyses of the ministerial statements and compile final budget reports for the financial year 2007/8.

Parliament suspended plenary sessions to give the committees of the House time to finish their analyses of the ministerial statements and compile final budget reports for the financial year 2007/8.

A number of ministers were summoned to explain their budgetary requests.

The defence and internal affairs committee, chaired by Rose Namayanja, was preparing to meet Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, the defence minister, when the members disagreed on the strategy, but later came to terms.

The major issue of contention was the financing of the army to quell rebellion in the countryside especially the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). There was contention over the existence of the rebel group.

Makindye West MP Hussein Kyanjo said the Kiyonga should convince the committee of the existence of the rebel group, but the other MPs dismissed his assertions.

Lt. Jessica Alupo (Katakwi) wondered whether Kyanjo wanted the committee to be taken to the frontline to ascertain the existence of the ADF. The committee settled on letting Kiyonga explain it. So honourable be prepared.

The Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Matia Kasaijja, appeared before the internal affairs committee, and the major issue was the new police headquarters. the committee said it was a waste of government funds for the Police rent offices. They want the Police to build headquarters. The Police Force plans to rent the offices at the Parliamentary Avenue for three years, but the committee is giving them one year as they plan for their own home.

The committee was also displeased over the shifting of the CID headquarters to Kibuli just after the Police had shifted. They said Police headquarters was relocated to create ample space for the training school, but the CID had been moved to the same place.

Namirembe Bitamazire, the education minister, said the days of Government sponsorship for meals and accommodation at Makerere University were numbered. Bitamazire was appearing before the social services committee chaired by James Kubeketerya. She said the Government wanted to scrap sponsorship for food and accommodation and maintain only tuition. The Minister of State for Higher Education, Gabriel Opio, however, said a few days later that there was no such plan and left the public in suspense.

The Minister of Finance and the Auditor General were summoned to explain the Basajjabalaba sh21b bailout, while the legal and parliamentary affairs committee asked the state minister for justice, Fred Ruhindi, to explain why state attorneys were resigning.

Twenty-three state attorneys have resigned in two years, making an average of nearly one per month. Poor pay was sighted as the major reason. The attorneys resign and go for the lucrative private legal practice.

Ruhindi assured the committee that the Government would address the acute shortage of man power in the Attorney General’s chambers. He said the Government had set aside money to recruit 27 more state attorneys this financial year. The problem of low salary, however, remains unresolved.

Meanwhile, the committee on natural resources grilled Umeme for importing electricity poles from South Africa yet UEDCL treats eucalyptus poles from Uganda that are suitable for electricity transmission. The committee’s main concern was that each electricity pole imported from South Africa is taxed and in total costs sh1.2m, yet the same type of the poles can be accessed locally at a much cheaper price. Umeme also came under fire for running an account with City Bank.

Energy minister Daudi Migereko appearing before the same committee, was tasked to explain how the Government would manage oil exploration at the border with the DRC. MPs urged the Government to end the joint oil exploration deal with Congo, signed during the Mobutu Sese Seko regime, following the recent killing of a British oil explorer on the Ugandan side.

Plenary sessions suspended