MPs, minister clash over move to merge REA with energy ministry

Energy and Mineral Development minister, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

The Natural Resources Committee lawmakers and energy ministry officials August 23 clashed over government's plan to merge the Rural Electrification Agency (ERA) and the ministry.

The legislators demanded that for the above to happen, ‘‘government commits that all staff in the electricity agency are automatically retained even after the merger.’’

As she interfaced with the MPs on the Natural Resources Committee, Energy and Mineral Development minister, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa requested Members of Parliament (MPs) to support the Ministry of Finance proposal so that all the money that was allocated to ERA be sent to her docket.

Mr Emmanuel Otaala, Chairperson Natural Resources Committee asked the Ms Nankabirwa to halt the merger process until the committee rules on the said matter.

“We need to make a decision on this matter so that by the time the matter is coming to Parliament we have a clear position so that we are able to defend you,” Mr Otaala said.

However, Ms Nankabirwa opposed reasoning that it would attract legal implications from contractors who are currently pressing- demanding money from REA.

“My house is on fire, the contractors want money, and you want electricity. Cabinet decided, and this is executive mandate to restructure government, if the vote remains hanging I will not manage the fire from the contractors. Right now, REA can’t transact. If we dilly dally, we will be making matters worse, REA is in transit,” Ms Nankabirwa told the committee.

Mr Kamuntu Moses, the MP Rubanda West and Mr Eddie Kwizera, the Bukimbiri County lawmaker said there are some court proceedings regarding the REA merger, prompting the committee to task the duo to bring the judgements from court before a final decision is taken.

To this, Ms Nankabirwa said that there wasn't any court injunction obstructing the Ministry’s resolve.

“Government has not been taken to court. If there was a verdict that court stopped a process, then I would be defying court,” Ms Nankabirwa echoed.

However, sections of lawmakers seconded the minister saying a merger would expedite processes of enhancing rural electrification.

“We really have to speed up that process. I don’t know why all these things are coming up,” Fort Portal City-Central MP Mr Alex Ruhunda urged.

“What my people want is electricity.What we demand is the roadmap of this merger and then hold the ministry accountable. Halting it is like telling our people to remain in darkness,” Mr Dickson Kateshumba, the MP Sheema Municipality said.

The merger of REA is part of the government’s plan to review the existence of 157 entities in what could see 61 agencies retained while at least 33 other entities will be incorporated back into their parent ministries. The process is expected to be done within three years.

Government defended the merger process saying if conducted well, Uganda will be in position to save over Shs988bn.