Internal affairs expecting new stock of passports in July

Internal Affairs Minister Jeje Odongo has told Parliament that the new stock of ordinary passports is expected to arrive in a month’s time.

Minister Odongo’s revelation on Wednesday followed a heated debate on his statement to parliament communicating the low stock levels of ordinary passports as per the 13th June 2017 ministry’s press release.

In his statement, Odongo attributed the shortage in ordinary passports to the yet to be realised migration from machine readable passports to the E-passports which had been planned for April 3, 2017. He now says that East Africa Member States have now extended the deadline to December 2017.

“In view of the above, it was logical to procure reasonable quantities to avoid financial loss due to over stocking of a passport that is about to be replaced,” said General Odongo.

He added that his ministry was also experiencing an unprecedented increase in the demand for ordinary passports especially from Ugandans seeking employment abroad from 450 to 700 daily applicants.

He however said that his ministry was already taking the necessary steps to ensure that the required stock levels are replenished.

Odongo told parliament that the Attorney General William Byaruhanga has already cleared a new agreement to enable the Internal Affairs ministry replenish the stock of ordinary passports in one month.

The minister’s comments on the new stock of passports, however, came after legislators led by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had faulted government for what they called incompetence and poor planning. They also noted that the development was financially nonviable to the country.

Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga said it was the first time he was listening to a General make a confession of incompetence before parliament.

“Could you tell parliament why we should not hold you responsible for incompetence and mismanagement? The minister is telling us he has failed at his duties,” said Mpuuga.



Parliament finally approves UGX 15.9 Billion for LC polls

Parliament has approved 15.9 billion Shillings to fund elections for Local Council (LC) I and II leaders across the country. The funding was approved as parliament considered a report of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for the financial year 2017-2018.

Legislators warned that the budget for the Electoral Commission, one of the sectors dissected by the legal committee, could not be approved without a provision for local council elections.

The local councils are the first reference points for the community and other organs of the state. However, Uganda has not held LCI elections since 2001 owing to a 2007 ruling based on a petition filed by Maj Rubaramira Ruranga, the former chairman of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party Electoral Commission.

Major Ruranga argued that Local councils which were previously elected under the movement system became unconstitutional when the country adopted a multiparty political system.

Court ruled that the new LCs could not be elected unless the respective electoral laws had been amended to reflect the multiparty setting. Subsequently parliament of Uganda passed the Local Government (Amendment) Bill which provides for election of village, ward and parish councils under the multiparty system. However, no fresh LC elections have been held to date.

Jacob Oboth-Oboth the chairperson of the Legal Committee of parliament earlier told the committee that there was no provision for funding local council elections in the EC budget for next financial year. However, his submission was contested by State Minister for Planning David Bahati who insisted that money had been provided for the polls.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah directed the two leaders to vacate the chambers and reconcile their figures.

On return, both MP Oboth and state minister Bahati confirmed to parliament that funds have been availed in the next financial year 2017/2018 to conduct local council elections. Bahati said that the money had been classified as general elections.

Uganda has 57,842 villages.




Court overturns decision on Katakwi MP Akurut

By Sania Babirye

The  Court of Appeal has overturned the Soroti high court decision that had nullified the election of Katakwi district woman MP Violet Akurut.

Three court of appeal justices led by deputy chief justice Steven Kavuma  ruled that the lower court trial judge David Wangutusi applied the law wrongly  when he treated the MP as a public servant for failing to resign  her position in the  Human rights commission  90 days before she presented herself for nomination.

The justices ruled that Hon Akurut  is not a public servant as it had been stated because she is not an employee of the Human Rights Commission and  commissioners are not public servants.

The court has now reinstated her as the district  woman MP and ordered the petitioner to pay her costs of the suit.

In July 2016 the MPs victory was cancelled on grounds that she never resigned her  public service position as a commissioner with the Uganda Human Rights Commission after a voter a one Simon Peter Emorutu challenged her victory and ordered for fresh elections.

Legislators rule that arcade owners should be paid in Ugandan shillings

Ugandan tenants will no longer be mandated to pay rent in US Dollars following a new law passed by parliament.  The income tax amendment bill 2017 provides that all rental agreements must be executed in Ugandan currency.

The move comes in relief of tenants in many shopping malls who were forced by their landlords, to pay rent in US dollars despite earning in Uganda Shillings. This implied that their rent bills increased whenever there was appreciation of the Dollar.

Parliament unanimously resolved that all rental agreements must be executed in Ugandan Shillings in order to protect and eliminate exploitation of Ugandan traders whose profits are pegged on fluctuations on the money market.

Members argued that the new provision will boost the Uganda Shilling which is continuously depreciating against major foreign currencies and ease the cost of doing business in the country, especially since rental fees form a major challenge to business.

Finance Committee Chairman Henry Musasizi stated the move is good for the development of the economy.

Similarly Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi says Ugandan traders need to be protected.

The changes came as parliament amended the income tax act to provide for the exemption from payment of income tax for a number of companies and to empower the minister to issue estimates of rent for the purposes of assessing rental tax among others.



Data bill continues to be shelved as companies continuously seek personal information

The Data Protection and Privacy bill 2016 is gathering dust in the shelves of parliament, a year after it was tabled. The State Minister for Planning, David Bahati tabled the bill in parliament in April 2016. The speaker referred the bill to the Information, Communication and Technology Committee for scrutiny before it presents a report to parliament for discussion and final approval.

The bill seeks to cover areas that deal with personal data, which are not provided for in the Interception of Communication Act and the Registration of Person’s Act. The bill also seeks to regulate how personal information is collected and processed. It also contains provisions that allow Ugandans a right to withhold their personal data, inquire the purpose for which it is being sought and how long the data should be used.

Part IV of the bill talks about security of data and requires those collecting the data to keep it secure and protect its integrity.  However, since then nothing has been done. The urgency of the Data Protection and Privacy bill came to the fore recently when government allowed telecom companies to access the bio data collected during the National Identity Card (ID) enrollment exercise.

The data is currently held by National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA). The move to allow telecom companies to access the data is aimed at helping then to enforce a directive from Uganda Communications Commission on Sim card registration. Peter Gwayaka Magelah, the Program Manager Chapter Four, says the delayed enactment of the bill is a big risk to individual data.

Paula Turyahikayo, the Chairperson of Information, Communication and Technology Committee, says the committee will handle the Data Protection and Privacy bill 2016 immediately after the budgeting process. Parliament is expected to conclude the 2017/2018 financial year budget process by May 31st, 2017.

She acknowledges the importance of the bill in protecting personal data, adding that in its absence other laws like the Interception of Communication Act and the Registration of Person’s Act can be used effectively to protect data.

However, a researcher from parliament told URN later that the existing laws don’t regulate or protect personal data like personal details collected by organizations such as banks, hospitals, travel agencies and insurance companies.





Fare thee Well Mayanja Nkangi

By Edwin Muhumuza
Parliament has paid tribute to former Buganda Premier and former minister of Justice and Constitutional affairs as his body lay in state.
He served Uganda and Buganda with dignity” said one of Uganda’s longest serving minister and Member of Parliament Hon. John Nasasira.
Former Inspector General of Government Jotham Tumwesigye has hailed the late Mayanja-Nkangi as a man so dedicated to national service.
“He lived a life of integrity and honesty. I had a chance to interact with him when he was minister of finance and i was inspector general of government. He helped me greatly when we worked together” he said.
At exactly 12 O’clock, the Speaker Rt.Hon,Rebecca Kadaga and deputy speaker Jacob Oulanya led government officials, retired civil servants, family and friends in showing last respects to the man who is widely revered as a nationalist.
Jehoash Mayanja Nkangi served as minister in three different governments. He was minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 1963 under the Obote 1 government,
commerce and industry minister then labour minister under the Okello Lutwa government between August 1985 and January 1986. Under Museveni’s regime he was education minister, planning and economic development minister, finance minister and justice and constitutional affairs minister.
He will be buried at his ancestral home in   Kanyogoga in Kalungu district.

Golden hand shake money beneficiaries explain to the Committee of Commission

Four beneficiaries of the Shillings 6 billion presidential handshake from Uganda Revenue Authority-URA have explained their roles in the Heritage Oil and Gas arbitration case.

They are Mathew Mugabi, the former URA Litigation Manager, Samuel Kahima, the former acting Manager Rulings and Interpretations, Moses Kibumba, the former Chief Assessor and former Natural Resource Supervisor Annet Bazalilaki.

The four appeared on Monday afternoon before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises chaired by Bugweri County MP, Abdu Katuntu, which is investigating the oil cash bonuses.

Evidence before the committee shows that Mathew Mugabi and Samuel Kahima pocketed Shillings 121 million each while Moses Kibumba and Anent Bazalilaki received Shillings 73 million and Shillings 56 million respectively.

During the meeting, the Committee Chairperson Abdu Katuntu tasked tasked the four officials to explain the extraordinary role they played in the oil arbitration case to warrant a special reward from the president.

Mugabi, who traveled to London more than five times, said his role was to provide background information on how they argued the case in the Arbitration Tribunal and High Court of Uganda.

Busiro East MP, Medard Ssegona asked Mugabi the number of witnesses URA presented for the case. Mugabi said he couldn’t remember the exact number, but only said they were more than two witnesses.

His response drew angry reactions from Ssegona and Katuntu who wondered how URA officials expect the committee to believe their claims to have played an extraordinary role.

Samuel Kahima, the former URA Acting Manager Rulings and Interpretations, said he handled objections to the case since it was leaning toward enforcement measures.

Kahima also said he was the only member of the team who had practiced under the income tax decree and was there to support the arbitration team by conceptualizing the matter.

He however, agreed with the Katuntu that even with this, he would ordinarily be performing his job. Moses Kibumba, the former URA Chief Assessor sent the probe Committee into laughter when he said that the Heritage Oil and Gas Company case was extraordinary since it generated abnormal heat.

Anent Bazairaki, the former URA Natural Resources Supervisor said her role in the Oil arbitration case was to conduct research on the matter from the internet. The probe committee resumes on Wednesday with submissions from other beneficiaries from the presidential handshake from URA.

At least 42 government officials benefited from the presidential handshake for their role on the arbitration. The tax dispute arose after Heritage sold its interests in Uganda’s oil to Tullow Oil.





MPs whine over the functionality of their Ipads

Parliament skipped some items lined up for discussion on Wednesday following complaints by legislators on their Ipads.

Parliament was expected to discuss and adopt findings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the Auditor General’s report on the 2014/2015 financial year Health sector Budget.

No sooner had the PAC Chairperson Angeline Osegge started presenting the report, than the Bwamba County MP, Richard Gafabusa rose on a matter of procedure.

Gafabusa told the house chaired by the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga that he couldn’t follow the report, since it wasn’t available on his Ipad.

He was supported by Joseph Ssewungu, the Kalungu West MP who pleaded with the speaker to ensure the Ipads are worked on to improve their efficiency.

William Nzonghu, the Busongora North MP, said his Ipad has been dysfunctional for the last two months.

The Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga rejected the proposal to distribute hard copies to the legislator, saying they ditched them because of the costs involved.

She directed the Clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige to investigate the functionality of the Ipads and internet in the house and file a report by Thursday.

Parliament forked out Shillings 3.6 million to procure Ipads for each of the 427 legislators in the tenth parliament. The speaker introduced the use of Ipads in the house during the Ninth parliament hoping to cut down on stationary costs.

However, a year after the introduction of the Ipads, the printing, stationary and binding budget of parliament shot from Shillings 383 million to a whopping Shillings 1.5 billion.



Government plans to increase medics’ lunch allowances

Parliament’s budget committee has recommended an increase in the monthly lunch allowance for medical workers across the country. The legislators are suggesting an allowance of 288,000 Shillings for nurses, doctors and other health workers bringing the lunch allocation to 12,000 Shillings per day, per person.

Government currently allocates a monthly allowance of 66,000 Shillings and 44,000 Shillings for doctors and nurses respectively. But Amos, Lugoloobi, the chairman of the budget committee argues that the allocation is insufficient.  He says that the rate which was determined in 1996 has not been revised over the last 20 years despite an increase in the cost of living.

Kasambya County MP Gaffa Mbwatekamwa says that a revision in the lunch allowance will improve the welfare of medical workers who he said use their little pay on accommodation, utilities and transport to work. There are 43,777 health workers on government payroll.

The recommendation is carried in the committee report on the national budget framework paper for the financial year 2017/2018.

Meanwhile, the budget committee also recommends another additional funding amounting to 645 billion Shillings towards the health sector. The money is to cater for among others, Hepatitis B vaccination, procurement of adequate suppliers of ARVs under the National Medical Stores (NMS), bringing staffing levels to at 72 percent in general hospital and others.

On construction and upgrading of health facilities, the budget committee recommends the provision of 164 billion Shillings required for upgrading of Health Centre IIIs to Health Centre IVs in 29 counties and an additional 247 billion Shillings for the construction of 93 Health Centre IIIs in sub-counties where no government facility exists today.

Santa Alum, the Oyam Woman MP told parliament how a Health Centre III in her constituency lacks clean water.

MPs also recommended another 49 billion to be allocated to the health ministry to carry out vaccination, testing and treatment of Hepatitis B in 20 districts that are at high risk.
Parliament resumes on Wednesday to debate the committee report before adopting it.



Parliamentarians with pending election petitions demand for vehicles cash

37 members of parliament with pending election petitions in the Court of Appeal are pushing for the release of their vehicle cash. The MPs have petitioned the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga demanding the release of their money. Each MP in the 10th parliament is entitled to Shillings 150 million for the purchase of a vehicle to facilitate their movement in the constituency. On October 11, 2016, parliament disbursed Shillings 43.2 billion to the law makers to procure vehicles.

Each MP received Shillings 100 million on their personal bank accounts. Earlier on, the Parliamentary Commission resolved not to disburse money to all legislators with election petitions until they are cleared by court to avoid cases where parliament is forced to release more cash once such a legislator is kicked out by court and replaced by another person. However, in their January 12, 2017 petition to the speaker, the petitioners demand for the release of their vehicle cash.

“We the under signed members of the 10th Parliament of Uganda, hereby log in a petition to your attention and the entire Parliamentary Commission over a matter of failure to transfer funds for purchase of vehicles as duly assigned”, reads the petition seen by URN. Adding that, “It’s also clear that half of the Members of Parliament who still have pending court appeals have been paid.”

They also claim that ex officials who are already provided for by their sector dockets and do not represent any constituency have been paid the vehicle money. They question the criteria used to pay out the vehicle cash. “Rt Hon Speaker, it should be noted among members who lost their cases at High Court and now in Court of Appeal; some have been paid whereas others have, the same applies to that won cases at high court and were appealed against. Therefore we are puzzled on the criterion of selection”, they said.

Peter Ogwang, the Usuk County Member of parliament who also doubles as Parliamentary Commissioner, says parliament used different approaches to arrive at, which MP receives the vehicle cash first. “We began with the new MPs following alphabetical order because some of the new MPs were facing transport challenges. The other MPs will also be catered for because the money is available”, Ogwang said.

He also confirmed that some of the MPs facing election petitions have received the vehicle. They asked the Speaker to authorize the transfer of funds meant for purchase of vehicles to their respective accounts so as to enable them acquire the vehicles like any other member of the 10th parliament. “We pray that you resist any attempts by any authority wishing to detract you from effecting these payments as this has direct bearing on the performance of the 10th parliament and precedent for future challenges against any member of parliament,” they said.

Chris Obore, the Director of Communication and Public Relations in Parliament, told URN that the Parliamentary Commission halted the payment following public complaints. “Some few MPs with petitions had earlier received cash as was the case with the previous Parliaments. But their payment elicited complaints forcing the Commission to review the matter. The Commission will examine the petition of unpaid MPs with Court cases and make a decision”, Obore said.

He confirmed that two or three MPs with election petitions have received the vehicle money. Patrick Okabe, the Serere County MP is one of the legislators battling a petition in Soroti High Court for alleged lack of academic papers. “We can’t wait forever for the court cases to be disposed of yet we are still having the mandate of our people who badly need us to serve them. How do they expect us to travel to our constituencies?” he said.