Parliament is spending over 2 billion Shillings to facilitate the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and a delegation of legislators attending the 28th Uganda North America Convention – UNAA, in the United States.
UNAA is the largest community organization for the Ugandan Diaspora, often used as a platform to stimulate fellowship among members in North America, Europe and Uganda. The community, founded in 1988, boasts of over 120,000 members.
According to the UNAA website, the event this year runs from September 2 to September 4 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. It will feature networking, business and education forums and political governance debates. Over 50 traders will also exhibit items portraying Ugandan culture, produce, art crafts, cuisine and textiles.
The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and her Deputy Jacob Oulanyah will both attend the convention alongside a team of 78 members of Parliament. They are accompanied by several parliamentary staff.
Another team headed by the Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza is attending a parallel convention to be held in Los Angeles, California.
The Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah left for the convention yesterday August 30 while the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga set off today August 31 together with the other Members of Parliament. They return on September 6.
Each air ticket for the Members of Parliament was quoted at 5,700 US Dollars, approximately 19,015,400 Uganda Shillings. All legislators are flying business class by Emirates Airlines. The total cost on tickets is 456,000 US Dollars (over 1.5 billion Shillings).
The speakers are each entitled to per diem of 720 US Dollars or 2,401,950 Shillings per day while the Members of Parliament are entitled to 520 US Dollars (1,734,740 Shillings) per day. The total per diem cost for both Speakers is 1,440 US Dollars (4,803,900 Shillings) per day totaling to 8,640 US Dollars ( over 28 million Shillings) for the six days of the trip.
At least 41,600 US Dollars (over 138 million Shillings) will be spent on MPs allowances per day amounting to 249,600 (over 832 million Shillings) for the six days.
Some of the MPs on the Uganda delegation are Kato Lubwama, Mohammed Nsereko, Zaake Francis, Lyandro Komakech, Peter Ogwang, Felix Okot Ogong, Cissy Namujju, Johnson Muyanja Senyonga, Tusiime Michael, Alex Ruhunda and Godfrey Katushabe.
But Chris Obore, parliaments’ director of communications told Uganda Radio Network that parliament is facilitating only seven legislators while all the others are meeting the cost of their travel and accommodation while in the United States.
He adds that three others legislators; Peter Ogwang, Arinaitwe Rwakajara and Robinah Nabbanja, traveled in a separate capacity as Parliamentary Commissioners and are facilitated by the Parliamentary Commission.
Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa is traveling to the same event as part of government delegation while the Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige is leading a team of six technical staff mainly from the PR Department to run a stall at the convention and one legal person, to explain legal issues in parliament.
The technical staffs include Chris Obore, Hellen Kaweesa, Mohammed Katamba, Charles Bukuwa, Agnes Nabasumba and Guma Jackie.
The absence of both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker in parliament led to the suspension of sittings on Tuesday when legislators were expected to start debating a motion on a disputed Private Members’ Bill seeking to amend sections of the 1995 Constitution. The motion was tabled last week Thursday by Nakifuma County MP Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko.
An email sent to all Members of Parliament, authored by the office of the Clerk to Parliament indicated that sittings were called off until further notice.
‘Please be informed that there will be no plenary sessions today. Any inconveniences caused are highly regretted”, a message sent to MPs read.
Ranny Ismail, parliament’s Assistant Director for Media and Communications however told URN that the sitting was postponed because the Speaker, who had been away in Mauritius needed to get a brief from her deputy Jacob Oulanyah who chaired previous sessions.
Another notice issued this afternoon indicates that there will be no sessions in Parliament until September 9th. The notice issued by the Deputy Clerk to Parliament Paul Wabwire states that the suspension of sessions is based on a request by the Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, to allow cabinet time to accomplish certain activities.
Wabwire says, in the statement, that while the speaker accepted the request by government, she has accordingly directed that committees proceed with their planned activities.
Government is organising an induction for members of cabinet, to be held on September 1-2, and a retreat with all Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, and heads of government agencies on government annual performance report for the financial year 2015-2016.