Parliament defies Museveni, blocks merger of agencies

Members of Parliament (MPs) are seen during plenary session chaired by Speaker Anita Among on Febuary 28, 2024. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Parliament also approved the merging of the Export Promotions Board and the Uganda Free Zones Authority and merged the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Center (UWEC) with the Uganda Wild Life Authority.

Parliament has blocked the rationalisation and merging of several government agencies defying earlier calls by President Museveni to support the process.

Some of the agencies saved include the National Forestry Authority (NFA), the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), the Diary Development Authority (DDA) and the Uganda Cotton Development Organization (UCDO)

Prior to the start of the process in Parliament, President Museveni held several meetings with Members of Parliament of the NRM party aimed at convincing the legistors to support the mergers on the premise it would save governments Shs1trillion.

Government also hopes to ensure efficiency in service delivery, and budgetary discipline.

With majority numbers in the House, the bills to effect the mergers were expected to simply sail through.

During the April 19 Parliamentary sitting,  however, the committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries reported that some of the agencies lined up to be  rationalized, like the UCDA, NAADS, DDA and UCDO serve key, independent functions, and their return to the ministries would undermine gains made. There were also inconsistencies in the claimed savings to be made.

On NAADS, the committee reported returning to the ministry would will lead to reversal of the food security gains. The committee also revealed they had found government inflated the savings it would make by mainstreaming the entity

““The pivotal role played by NAADS in filling in the gaps in the agriculture sector and providing demand-driven services in line with modern agricultural trends and global market demands cannot be over- emphasised. This calls for strengthening of the institution rather than mainstreaming it into the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries,” the report states.

On UCDA, Ms  Janet Okori-Moe, the Chairperson of the Committee “in all successful coffee producing and exporting countries including Brazil and Vietnam coffee is regulated by a special agency. The civil service mode of operation and service delivery cannot efficiently undertake and deliver this mandate and Uganda is not about to retract from the coffee road map of achieving 20 million bags by 2030,”

She further reported “Under DDA dairy exports have tripled from Shs287.4 billion to Shs976.4 billion between 2019 and 2023. In the financial year 2022/2023, milk powder was the most exported product accounting to 54 percent of the total exports followed by UHT milk at 33.1 percent."

Trade Minister, David Bahati who represented his Agriculture counterparts, attempted in vain to convince the legislators to support the return of the agencies to the ministry.

Minister for Public Service, Mr Muruli Mukasa, who is in charge of rationalization said “all these functions are not going to be lost. They are going to be preserved and improved and everything will be okay. There are policies we have adopted, for example, the Parish Development Model will take on the roles that have been under NAADS.”

The House and Mr Mukasa have over the last two days traded veiled exchanges at a possibility that there was an invisible handle influencing the blockage of the mergers.

Speaker Among said: "Our conscience here is very clear, nobody has been bribed.  Whatever you are doing here you are doing it for and on behalf of your people. Let us do what we ought to do,”

Mr Elijah Okupa, (Kasilo County) said: “You are saying you are going to save Shs80 billion yet the budget you have always provided for UCDA is Shs48 billion. How could you make such a mistake?"

Legislators also called for more funding for the agencies to carry out their mandate

“We need coffee, cotton, dairy and we need to play to the highest standards. Let us find the resources and we ensure that these resources are in the budget and fully appropriated,” Muwanga Kivumbi, Butambala said.

Parliament has so far okayed the rationalisation of the Uganda Trypanosomiasis Control Council, Agricultural Chemicals Control Board, Uganda Meteorological Authority to the Ministry of Water and Environment, while the Warehouse Receipt System Authority was transferred to the Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives.

Parliament also approved the merging of the Export Promotions Board and the Uganda Free Zones Authority and merged the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Center (UWEC) with the Uganda Wild Life Authority.

The National Children’s Council, National Youth Council, National Women Council and the National Council for older persons and the persons with disabilities have been returned to the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development.