Sejusa warned as teachers miss out
Posted Sunday, September 22 2013 at 01:00
Equality: “There are big and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal,” Vladimir V. Putin, Russian President.
The MPs on the Budget Committee this week rubber-stamped the locus of the NRM Caucus meeting that the striking teachers, who are demanding for 20 per cent pay raise the government promised teachers in the 2011/12 financial year, should wait for next financial year.
The Budget Committee, chaired by Mr Tim Lwanga, on Tuesday spent several hours posturing on a standoff that required all the members on the Committee; their political views notwithstanding, to scrutinise the 2013/14 Budget with decency and confidence before they returned to the House to confirm that indeed there was no money for teachers.
In a meeting described by some members as “useless academic exercise”, it was decided that the House is persuaded to believe that there is no money for teachers. Shadow finance minister Geoffrey Ekanya and other sympathetic members tried to remind Mr Lwanga that the budget for Presidency and other departments contained some wasteful expenditure like donations, travel abroad, special meals, welfare and entrainment, among others. Even when Mr Ekanya raised these arguments in a minority report, the numbers took the day.
Mr Lwanga said although government promised to give teachers the 20 per cent salary increment this financial year, the Committee failed to raise the Shs136 billion needed by the poorly paid teachers. He repeated these claims on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday while presenting the Committee report.
Mr Ekanya proposed to cut Shs1.5 billion across all ministries but it was out rightly rejected by NRM cadres.. In what civil society activists called a mockery of the whole process, Mr Lwanga said the Committee only managed to get Shs60 billion which he said will be a drop in the ocean. Awkwardly, the dissenting legislators were daunted into submission and in the end; the Committee agreed with the President that the government does not have money to meet teachers’ demands this financial year.
The drama in the Budget Committee was a repeat of the drama over health budget last year. But with the politics of the numbers, when the matter returned to the House on Wednesday, there was no chance for a diminutive opposition. If I may use the words of a sarcastic government official, “the disgusting truth is that whether the teachers like it or not, the government is not going to sacrifice the 2013/14 priorities for anything. Let them wait for next financial year, we will look into those demands at an appropriate time, otherwise at the movement roads, electricity and security are more important than salaries.”
At the peak of the drama in the House, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi asked teachers to continue with the strike. Nonetheless, the NRM dominated Parliament voted against the teachers’ pay raise on Wednesday, most of the government schools across the country remained closed. The Education Minister , Ms Jessica Alupo, in her combative approaches to the standoff, has previously threatened to sack the striking teachers. The teachers, who spoke to Parliament Watch, have accused Parliamentarians of insincerity and vowed to continue with their strike.
Sejusa gets warning
In another dramatic story, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Tuesday refused to extend Gen David Sejusa’s leave, giving him a day to return to the House. Gen Sejusa who is holed up in London, kicked up a storm when a controversial letter he wrote to the director general of the Internal Security Organisation, asking him to investigate reports of a plot to assassinate senior government officials (including himself) thought to be opposed to the “Muhoozi Project”, leaked to the media.
The ‘Muhoozi Project’ refers to a purported plan to have President Museveni’s son, Brig Muhoozi Kainerugaba, succeed his father as President. Senior government officials have vigorously denied the existence of such a plan.
Gen Sejusa on April 29 sought Kadaga’s permission to be away from Parliament for three weeks, which the Speaker granted, commencing on the April 30. His leave ought to have expired on May 21 but on the 24th day of May, through his lawyers, Luzige, Lubega, and Co Advocates, informed the Speaker of his intention to extend his absence from the House. He made a further request for extension of the official leave for a period of three months on August 16, 2013 through his lawyers.
Ms Kadaga read her letter to Parliament in which she said: “Recognising that you are away, not on parliamentary duties and before granting your request for extension of leave, I contacted the Chief of Defence Forces to establish your status as regards official duty. The response from the CDF, contained in a letter dated August 16 under ref: UPDF/CDF/570/A is to the effect as far as UPDF is concerned, General Sejusa is not on any official duty of the UPDF.”
Ms Kadaga had ordered Gen Sejusa who is in London to appear in Parliament on Wednesday without fail. However, the General did not show up and in his response to Kadaga’s red card, he said: “I want to thank the Right Honourable Speaker of Parliament for her perseverance and courage when she extended my leave of absence for the first time... personally, my struggle is a political struggle that goes beyond my presence in Parliament…” He ruled out any plans to sue Kadaga and spoke of his readiness to start a new life outside parliament. However, the final position on the former spy chief who is now a fugitive, will be decided by Parliament.
Internet deal inflated
The Public Accounts Committee this week opened investigations into the allegations that officials in the Ministry of ICT in connivance with other connected politicians inflated the Shs274 billion National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure Project meant to promote e-governance in the country.
Ministry of ICT officials led by Dr Pat Samanya, the accounting officer failed to explain the circumstances under which the taxpayers lost $41.8million (more than Shs107.8billion) in an internet deal awarded to a Chinese company, Huawei and without competition bidding. The taxpayers’ money lost in inflated Chinese deal could finance three districts in a given financial year.
The committee noted that the cost of optic fibre cable per km (18,656.2) by Huawei as specified in cost per km was higher when compared to the comparator organisations and countries. The lawmakers have demanded that the officials who took part in the scam ‘vomit’ Shs107.8 billion. The probe resumes next week.