Mr Chairperson and Hon Members of PAC, I am pleased to meet with you today to fulfill your invitation. As I had earlier on informed you, I was unable to appear before the committee because of the commitments I had, and also due to the short notice I had been given. I am, however, grateful to you for having accepted my proposal to reschedule the meeting.
Mr Chairman, I had also requested from you the issues the committee was interested in discussing with me in regard to its work of considering the Auditor General’s report to Parliament. In a letter dated February 27, 2013 (which I guess was erroneously stated as 2012), signed by one James Mukaga, for the Clerk to Parliament, communicating on the directive of the chairman; I was informed generally that the committee was interested mainly in knowing; my political supervision role as Minister for Karamoja and my trip to Israel
Allow me therefore Mr chairman and honorable members to give you a summary of the issues regarding the above.
Political supervision role
I have served both as minister of state and now minister for Karamoja since 2009. My political supervisory role is mainly that one of providing policy direction to the ministry responsible for Karamoja affairs with a specific policy programme in the Office of the Prime Minister targeting a specific constituency of Karamoja sub-region on account of its historical disadvantages. My roles include; policy initiation on specific interventions deemed necessary for the sub-region’s affirmative action, leading the agreed upon policy initiatives and interventions, coordinating various stakeholders in the sub-region so as to build synergies for maximum outputs and supervising the various actors at a political level.
Mr Chairman and Hon. Members, I have diligently and passionately carried out these roles as the political leader of the sector through a number of activities both in office at the headquarters in Kampala and also in the field as some of you colleagues know. Karamoja has over the years become my second home. I visit it as regularly as I do to Ruhaama. At the Ministry level, I conduct regular policy meetings to plan interventions and I also receive performance reports from those tasked with running/implementing various activities. These meetings include; Karamoja Policy Committee meetings (KPC), and the Karamoja Regional Council meetings (KRC), among others. I later on follow up on the ground to verify the given reports and monitor performance. In this process, a lot of progress has been achieved. That is why; any objective-minded person will surely agree that our efforts in Karamoja have not been in vain.
The Karamoja of the past and the Karamoja of today surely have visible differences. The change is obviously for the better.
During my monitoring visits, meetings with various stakeholders (district leaders, MPs, RDCs, NGOs) would be convened for joint assessments. Where flaws in implementation would be detected, as indeed it would be in some instances, action would be demanded to be taken by other agencies concerned. For example, a number of investigations were initiated as a result of my monitoring work together with the area MPs in a number of Karamoja districts. I would also offer more policy guidance to different stakeholders on some issues where it would be found wanting (For example see my letters attached, to various stake holders on food distribution and food production guidelines, and also on the future of agro-pastoralism and agricultural production systems in karamoja, among many others).That is how, Mr Chairman and Hon members, I would execute my political supervisory role.
Regarding issues of alleged financial impropriety by staff as alluded to in your letter, I am sure the committee got answers from those technical staff concerned. While I supervise, politically, the general programmes of my sector and demand for results to ensure policy compliance, I am limited as a minister to follow up on financial disbursements or even verifying expenditures on a day-to-day basis. That is the work of other people as you surely know.
Mr Chairman and Hon members, I wish to further inform you that my ministry together with other stakeholders (Local Governments of Karamoja, partners in development, elders and communities) for which I am very grateful; identified the core problems that have affected the region and kept it backward for decades. It is those problems we identified, that defined our mission to change the status quo in Karamoja.
They are: Food production to fight hunger, water for production and human consumption, alternative livelihoods, cattle branding to eliminate insecurity and the traditional problem of cattle rustling and community empowerment initiatives.
Our achievements so far, include the following:
Promoting food security
I launched the Karamoja Food Security Action Plan in February 2010 with the overall aim of promoting agricultural productivity, food security and household incomes in the region. I am pleased to note, Mr Chairman and Hon members, that Karamoja now, which hitherto depended on food aid/relief has started selling its own food produce to various market centres in the eastern region and WFP is also proposing to buy the farmers’ produce in Karamoja which I think is a milestone that all people of good will should applaud. I am personally grateful to God for this.
Provision of water
Together with other collaborating agencies of government like Ministry of Water and other partners, we have constructed valley tanks in the region to ease the burden on the water stressed communities of Karamoja. A total of about nine valley tanks have been constructed so far in Napak, Moroto and Amudat, another six are being constructed in Kotido and Nakapiripirit.
Electronic cattle branding
We took branding of cattle as a deliberate policy initiative to fight cattle rustling and thefts. Statistics show that a total of over 81,341 heads of cattle have been branded in the districts of Moroto, Napak, Abim, Kaabong, Kotido and parts of Nakapiripirit districts. The electronic cattle branding has tremendously helped the UPDF in tracking and identifying stolen livestock and has reduced cattle thefts in the region.
Construction of pilot improved settlements
Given the long dry spells the region used to experience, fires would cause disaster and burn to ashes most of the traditional (grass-thatched) huts of most of the households. And so many would run and turn to government for help. It’s on that background therefore, that my ministry tried to promote improved conditions of living among the communities in the region, by constructing some pilot houses using Hydraform technology. In October 2009, we kick-started the construction of Nadunget pilot village using Hydraform technology.
A total of 20 housing units, 20 kitchens and stores and 40 stance VIP toilets and bathrooms were constructed and handed over to the beneficiaries in October 2010.
In 2010, we kick-started the construction of a pilot housing unit in Kampswahili village, Moroto Municipality. 19 housing units, one health centre II and 40 stance VIP toilets and bathrooms were constructed and handed over to the beneficiaries in July 2011. In February 2011, the construction of another two pilot villages was kick-started in Acerere in Moroto District and Lorengedwat in Nakapiripirit District. So far, 80 housing units have been constructed and handed over to the beneficiaries. The construction of teachers and health staff houses is ongoing in Napak District. The construction of accommodation facilities for 18 teachers in Kalotom Primary School and eight medical staff in Morulinga Health Centre has been finalised.
Community empowerment programme
My office initiated a community empowerment programme targeting women and youth groups. Two groups would be selected from every sub-county and provided each with a heifer, a goat or oxen based on group preferences. You may see some of the project launch ceremonies in the brief documentary provided. So far, a total of over 602 cows and 224 goats have been distributed to the communities in Kotido and Kaabong districts and we expect to cover all districts of Karamoja.
I have personally supervised all these projects and reviewed progress at each stage to ensure that set targets/indicators are met.
My Trip to Israel
I wish to state that I travelled to Israel once in September 2010 to try and look for a lasting solution to the water problem in Karamoja and not the so many eight or nine times famously reported in the media. Many wondered how logically possible it could have been for me to travel to Israel nine times in a month, literally translating to more than two times a week. Simply meaning that I would travel to Israel, spend a night there, return the following day to Kampala, and shuttle back after a day’s rest. Mr Chairman, this blatant falsehood was sold by those who sought to cover up their misdeeds. Why should lies be told, and yet we claim to be a nation fighting corruption?
I wondered also, why the Auditor General’s auditing team could not put to strict proof, those who used this as a justification for their accountability. What is hard to prove here? If anybody claimed that I travelled to Israel nine times, why couldn’t the auditors for example demand to see purchase documents/vouchers of the flight tickets as well as bookings? Isn’t auditing also about verifying what accountabilities the auditor receives from the auditee?
This was very unfortunate and I hope PAC as well as Parliament will deem it prudent to advise our auditing system to always do a thorough check on their audit material so as to avoid culprits using names of political leaders as scapegoats well knowing that those leaders like myself, will not interface with the auditors.
I hope this, Mr Chairman and Hon members clarifies the two areas raised to me.
Janet K. Museveni, MP
Minister for Karamoja affairs,
Office of the Prime Minister