What you need to know:
- While appearing on NTV Uganda morning show yesterday, Mr John Friday, the assistant commissioner, petroleum supply at the Ministry of Energy, said the pump prices are relatively okay at the moment.
- As discontent continues to grow over the rising prices, President Museveni has repeatedly ignored calls for tax cuts and subsidies, urging citizens to live frugally instead.
A Wednesday meeting convened by the Government Assurance and Implementation committee of Parliament turned stormy after officials from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development were no show.
The Minister of Finance, Mr Matia Kasaija, had been summoned together with the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa and the leadership of the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) to discuss the rising cost of fuel in the country.
The committee also wanted to establish the extent to which the Jinja fuel storage terminal has been utilised to mitigate continued increase in fuel prices as well as the total budget requirement for maintaining the storage terminal to full capacity.
However, on convening for the meeting, only UNOC officials led by their Chief Executive Officer, Ms Proscovia Nabbanja, showed up. They were joined by Mr Honey Malinga, the acting director in charge of Petroleum at the energy ministry, who told the committee that his ‘superiors’ had been summoned to State House by the President while others were out of the country on official duties.
“The senior minister [Ms Ruth Nankabirwa] was summoned to State House, while the minister of state for energy [Mr Sidronius Opolot Okaasai] travelled for a summit and the minister of state for mineral development [Mr Peter Teko Lokeris] travelled with part of the MPs to Dar es Salaam,” Mr Malinga said.
This explanation, however infuriated the lawmakers, who accused the line ministries of deliberately undermining the work of Parliament, having been written to on July 15, according to the committee vice chairperson Mr Joseph Ssewungu.
“Honourable members, we are now stuck. I doubt whether we can proceed with this meeting today. Ministers have got a tendency of telling lies; whenever they don’t appear here they say they are at State House and they think we are very stupid. We are going to make our investigations and we shall be shaming them here, because they will not deter us from carrying out our constitutional mandate..” a tough-talking Ssewungu said, as he instructed the committee clerk to write again to the Minister of Finance, the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Ramathan Ggoobi, and the director of budget, as well as the Minister of Energy, Ms Ruth Nakabirwa, to appear before the committee next Tuesday.
“I signed those letters and put my mobile telephone number but none of them has called me. This is the second time we are inviting the finance ministry and they do not show up. Mr Kasaija must appear here individually. If he fails we shall use our police to get him,” he added.
The legislators described the ministers’ failure to appear before the committee as sabotage of government, as some claimed to be evading their electorate because they do not have the answers and solutions to the current crisis.
“We are moving into a crisis in terms of social unrest, an economic lockdown is looming. We really need to do something. Our parking [Parliament] is full; all Members of Parliament are here. We are basically hiding because we don’t know what to explain to the people in our constituencies. We really need to sit down together and have a way forward,” Ms Racheal Magoola, the Bugweri Woman MP said.
“I say this with a bleeding heart. As I talk now, I have abandoned my own vehicle in Moyo; I can no longer use it because of the rising fuel cost. If you go to the streets right now, there are no vehicles. We are heading for a serious economic recession; fuel is the engine of the economy. If the ministries of finance and energy do not take this matter seriously, we are in danger,” Mr Tom Alero Aza, West Moyo County MP.
Fuel prices in country have been increasing almost daily, causing panic among motorists, with Total fuel stations having the highest prices for both petrol and diesel, followed by Shell.
By Wednesday, petrol at Total on Wampewo Avenue was trading at Shs6,590 a litre while diesel was Shs6,390.
While appearing on NTV Uganda morning show yesterday, Mr John Friday, the assistant commissioner, petroleum supply at the Ministry of Energy, said the pump prices are relatively okay at the moment.
“The situation has not reached a level where we (government) must intervene,” he said.
Prices of fuel, food and other basic goods have rocketed globally because of the Ukraine war, hitting vulnerable countries in Africa and elsewhere.
In most remote parts of the country, petrol is selling for between Shs7,000 and Shs8,000 a litre, a two-fold increase since February.
As discontent continues to grow over the rising prices, President Museveni has repeatedly ignored calls for tax cuts and subsidies, urging citizens to live frugally instead.
In his annual state of the nation address in June, Museveni said, "Cutting taxes and subsidies, especially on imports, is suicidal because our people may buy carelessly and we end up draining our forex (foreign exchange) reserves."