The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga on Tuesday deferred debate on the Physical Infrastructure (Amendment) Bill 2018 after Members of Parliament and government disagreed over establishment of a new secretariat.
The bill has been in Parliament since it was tabled by the State Minister for Lands in charge of Housing, Mr Isaac Musumba last year.
The point of the contention in the bill is the government’s proposal to amend the Physical Planning Act, 2010 to provide for the creation of the National Planning Secretariat that will be charged with guiding the local governments in planning.
The bill also provides for the strengthening of the Physical Planning Board by recruiting personnel to work hand in hand with the Secretariat.
However, during the bill’s second reading yesterday, MPs from across the political divide opposed the proposal saying creating a secretariat will be a contradiction by the government which is in the process of phasing out or merging some of the agencies to reduce on duplication of work and cost of administration.
“It would be wrong for us to sit here and create another body by creating this secretariat,” Budadiri West MP, Nandala Mafabi said.
Some MPs including Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kira Municipality), Joshua Anywarach (Padyere County), and Stephen Mukitale (Bulisa County), questioned why the government is “rushing” to create a Secretariat before coming up with the National Physical Planning strategy which needs to guide the planning process in the country.
“There is need for the minister to bring an integrated National Physical Planning strategy. We need to have time in the conference hall with the ministry’s technocrats to understand this plan before we go ahead with this bill,” Mr Mukitale said.
Regarding the outstanding presidential directive to merge agencies and entities, the MPs referred to what Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda told Parliament during Prime Minister’s question time last Thursday where he assured parliament that the process of merging agencies “is ongoing.”
Rubanda County MP, Denis Sabiiti challenged the amendment saying: “You cannot go into implementation of such a secretariat without a physical development plan.”
Minister Musumba told the House that the proposal to create a physical infrastructure secretariat was a Cabinet directive because it was realized that the current law does not favour the planners at the Local Government level.
“The local leaders always sit on the planners and also the Physical Infrastructure Act, 2010 created a board that is under a directorate. This board is incapacitated in doing its work. Also the planners at the local government are not able to implement the plan,” he said.
He added that the ministry has already worked on the draft of the National Physical Plan, but MPs rejected the amendment calling for the debate to be deferred so that it can be studied further.
Speaker Kadaga ruled in favour of the MPs deferring the debate on the matter to next week
However, the bill that has been in Parliament since last year may wait for a little longer to be passed since next week there is no plenary sittings as Uganda will be hosting the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) which runs from September 22 to 29.