Parliament Watch: Gaddafi is dead but lets protect our oil soberly

Sunday October 23 2011

Parliament Watch: Gaddafi is dead but lets protect our oil soberly

NRM legislators taking part in Kyankwanzi retreat on Wednesday. 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Parliament is under trial again. Although the primary role of Parliament is to make laws on any matter for the peace, order and development, that alone does not extinguish its inherent powers under the Constitution to rein in Executive members when they abuse state power. NRM MPs trying to overturn oil resolutions should be reminded that Parliament is mandated to defend the Constitution and its independence.

It has been a strange week. First, the ruling party legislators went on a retreat in Kyankwanzi to try and re-establish sanity in their party. For the first four days, I am told they were informed that our economy is doing “just fine” and that in the face of the double-digit inflation being at the highest levels in 20 years and the ever-falling Shilling, the indicators were impressive and that with God’s grace we are going to weather the storm. On Friday, as they discussed political issues, there was an attempt to arm-twist members to eat their words on the oil motion, but I hear they refused to budge in defence of the independence of the Parliament.

In the same week, Opposition leaders resumed their walk-to-work, this time protesting against corruption and what they called the government indifference to the cries of the people who are suffering with the double-digit inflation now at 28.3 per cent. But this time their leader, Col .Kizza Besigye, was not allowed to march, he is currently under house arrest. A friend in police told me that if they had allowed him to walk he was going to disrupt the exams. Again, this same week, Ankole’s Prince, John Barigye, passed away, may his soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God’s mercy rest in peace.

Gruesome murder
But the most outrageous moments ever captured on tape took place on Thursday, the gruesome murder of the former Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi—the King of Kings. There are several versions, surrounding Gaddafi’s death but what is clear so far is that he was killed after being captured in his birthplace of Sirte. According to Al-Jazeera, rebels assisted by Western forces were keen to take credit for the death of Gaddafi, with others claiming to have beaten him with their shoes or watched as the bullets entered his body. This was mob justice.

In power, Gaddafi built up Libya’s army, spent billions of dollars from oil to improve the living standard for the poverty-stricken Libyans and other nations. Using oil wealth, he handed out millions to poor African neighbouring nations, which later won him support among the country’s masses. Sitting on Africa’s largest oil reserves, one can expect foreign oil companies to be clamouring for contracts. But without transparency and accountability, even with the death of Gaddafi, the war is far from being over, and may even linger for generations.

Back home, today NRM MPs return from Kyankwanzi where they had gone to mull over the challenges facing their party and the nation at large.

They wanted to fix an economy and corruption in the oil sector. While they come back without any substantial position on how to confront the corruption virus that has disorganised the fabric that once held our country intact, the cutting-edge is that the 9th Parliament must remain bipartisan if they are to defeat corruption in public and private offices.
On Tuesday, Parliament returns to pick from where the lawmakers ended during an emotive oil debate that excited the nation and replenished the fight against corruption at the top.

Press harder for change
In an attempt to bring back sanity in the oil sector before it’s too late, Parliament needs to press for the implementation of the resolutions made in the House during the oil debate.

This is because they were in good faith and will have far reaching implications on our future if we do not implement them. If this Kyankwanzi ‘magic’ blinds the majority in the House, then, corruption would certainly continue unabated and in the end, there will be no transparency and accountability in the oil sector. Our precious oil will turn into a nuisance and questions will remain unanswered.

While to recover the billions allegedly paid to ministers in bribes, a baby elephant will have to first pass through the eye of the needle, what is at stake now is for us to protect our nascent oil sector from exploitation by putting in place strong laws to guarantee transparency and accountability. Ugandans must own up their oil. They need to feel part of this discovery through increased social service delivery.

For instance, Energy Minister Irene Muloni and Permanent Secretary Kabagambe Kaliisa must answer who renewed Tullow’s licence yet the government had repossessed the oil fields under discussion. Who took the Heritage dispute to London yet the government had signed MoU to the contrary?

Where is the money the government has so far received from the oil industry and how much has been received, from who, for which blocks and where it is kept and in particular the following revenues: license fees, signatures bonuses, taxes, royalties, among others? Who is monitoring recoverable expenses incurred by Tullow and other foreign and local service providers in the oil sector to ensure that Ugandans are not fleeced when time for sharing oil money comes?
For those of you who missed the oil debate, these are some of the exciting but shocking revelations made on the floor of Parliament. Figures tabled in Parliament detail how these companies are paying themselves exorbitant salaries at the expenses of starving Ugandans. For instance, a one Simon Byrne the head of security, health and safety at Tullow earns a cool Shs42 million per month.

We have John Morley, who by qualification is a Caterpillar driver and his qualification is a certificate in catering he earns a whopping Shs54 million and Andy Demetriou who is in the external relations office but he is earning Shs36 million. This man is also a holder of a certificate in catering and the list goes on.

For these many years, the absurdity goes that there is even a yard where Tullow parks its equipment; the big mechanical trucks etc; but this particular yard is not in Hoima. The yard is here in the East of Kampala. It is at Kira and it is owned by connected Ugandans. One wonders about the rationale of having a yard in Kampala yet the field is in Hoima about 220km and from Hoima to the oil wells is another 80km. What rationale do you have to set up a yard in Kira? But because Ugandans will pay for these costs, Tullow doesn’t see anything wrong.

Whereas there are opportunities derived from the oil sector, the inhabitants of Bunyoro Kingdom, particularly Hoima which is nearer to the lakes have not benefitted.

Local participation is lagging at 30 per cent, the rest is foreign, even the fish they eat has to be transported from Kampala to these areas. Nothing, not even matooke, is purchased from these areas, so where is the trickledown effect out of this economy?

Oil is one of the most secretive businesses in the world. But without an authority to regulate this sector, how is the government going to regulate the daily productions of this oil, the shipment of this oil? We are operating in darkness without an authority and we shall end up being cheated. Its time to act.