A peep into Museveni’s address to Parliament

President Museveni is expected to address Parliament today. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Mr Museveni is expected to paint a hopeful portrait of a government that has built a base for socio-economic transformation in view of the prevailing peace and stability.

Faced with a raging moral crisis in  Cabinet, and a limping economy, President Museveni heads to Parliament today, to lay out plans for economic recovery as the country awaits action on ministers and other leaders in the diversion of iron sheets for the poor people in Karamoja Sub-region.

The iron sheets saga has dominated headlines for weeks and captured the attention of the President, the Inspectorate of Government and Parliament. In a recent Cabinet meeting, a visibly angry President talked of “thieves” and called abuse of relief items “unacceptable”.

Mr Museveni, who has not publicly discussed the iron sheets scandal but ordered the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) boss to deal with Karamoja minister Mary Goretti Kitutu and others involved in the diversion of iron sheets and other items, is expected to make off the cuff comments but without touching the merits and demerits of the matter before police and other authorities.

Last week, the President questioned Parliament and IGG involvement in a criminal case, and ordered the prosecution of ministers and all other key government officials involved in the scandal. It is not yet clear whether Mr Museveni would digress from the practise and use today’s address to announce changes in his  Cabinet, whose senior members have been named in the iron sheets saga.   

Whereas the iron sheets saga has rattled the Executive, some sources in State House called the iron sheets saga, “a small matter” and maintained that the police and courts of law would effectively deal with the culprits in the scandal.

Others, however, explained that it might be inappropriate for the Head of State to call a special sitting of Parliament and begin discussing a criminal case before the police.  However, in a disclaimer, they told the Monitor that “nothing stops the President from revealing the action he took on the suspects.”

In today’s special sitting, State House sources say Mr Museveni is expected to paint a hopeful portrait of a government that has built a base for socio-economic transformation in view of the prevailing peace and stability, but struggling to rescue 39 percent of the population who are trapped outside the money economy on account of land fragmentation, illegal evictions and rampant corruption that has delayed service delivery.  

Special Sitting

Article 101(2) of the 1995 Constitution, empowers the President as the fountain of honour, to call a special meeting of Parliament on any matter of national importance.

The last time Mr Museveni addressed a special sitting of this nature was in 2018 following the murder of one of the devoted National Resistance Movement (NRM) supporters and Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga. This particular murder case remains unresolved.

In his security address, the President announced a raft of security measures including finger-printing of all guns, installing of CCTV cameras and use of automobile tracking devices to combat urban crime in the country. The country’s security organs were struggling to stop rampant assassinations, kidnaps and terror activities.

PDM Tops Agenda

Explaining the purpose of today’s special sitting, State House sources talked of emerging structural challenges in the implementation of the Parish Development Model (PDM), an ambitious government anti-poverty plan that was launched in February 2022 as a multi-sectoral strategy, targeting 39 percent of Ugandan households that are currently stuck in the subsistence economy.

In Financial Year 2022/2023, the government through the Ministry of Finance and Local government announced that it had started full-scale implementation of PDM as “the last mile strategy for improved service delivery and enhancing the incomes and welfare of the households rooted in the subsistence sector to the money economy.”

Under the PDM model, the government singled seven pillars that needed attention in order to get people out of poverty. The release of initial PDM funds to selected Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations (Saccos) at the parish level, targeted the following pillars; (i) production, processing and marketing; (ii) infrastructure and economic services development; (iii) financial inclusion; (iv) social Services delivery; (v) mindset change and cross-cutting issues (gender, disability, environment among others); (vi) parish based management information system; and (vii) governance and administration.

Shs1.49 trillion approved

To facilitate the planned rolled out, Parliament in May 2022 appropriated Shs1.49 trillion to the PDM project. The money was supposed to go to 10,400 parishes across the country. Each parish was to receive Shs100m.

The government hoped to use parishes as the centres for the delivery of production, marketing and financial services to farmers. However, this has not been possible due to what MPs have called structural bottlenecks and other implementation challenges that have locked up billions of shillings on the various Sacco bank accounts.

The MPs, who spoke to Daily Monitor ahead of Mr Museveni’s address on what the country can do to change our economy and society, argued that “the economy is doing so badly”, the financial demands and the revenue being collected are not matching and that that corruption remains a big challenge.

“We are spending taxpayers’ money on non-priority sectors and corruption has now become part of the system. These issues have affected the government to the extent that the presidency cannot wait for the state of the nation address and budget speech,” Shadow attorney general Wilfred Niwagaba said.

According to Mr Eddie Kwizera, the MP for Bukimbiri constituency, the President wants to make national debate on issues of revenue mobilisation, corruption which has gone beyond and the government plans that cannot be implemented because of the economy is limping.

Mr Kwizera cited PDM which was supposed to be implemented in the Financial Year 2021/2022 but didn’t take off in many areas and that even in the third quarter of the Financial Year 2022/2023 budget, there is nothing touchable on ground.

“Although there are some areas where they have put some little money on the parish Saccos, in many parishes, there is no activity going there. There is much talking than what’s being done on ground. The so-called full implementation is a lie. The president is disappointed about the speed of PDM and needs our support,” Mr Kwizera, a member of the ruling NRM party explained.

Realising that PDM was facing challenges, Speaker Anita Among instructed the MPs to go back to their constituencies to ascertain the exact amount of approved funds disbursed to the respective parishes, the eligibility of the beneficiaries of the funds, the effectiveness of the disbursed funds and extent of the adherence to the guidelines and procedures. Most of the MPs have conformed the challenges in PDM implementation and asked the government to act before it’s too late.

What went wrong?

Mr Kwizera and other legislators faulted the government for bungling “a good project” and accused Cabinet of putting the cart before the horse. The MP, who is an expert in public management, advised the Head of State to suspend the project and put things right.

“The way forward is simple, halt the project implementation, and formulate a policy, put legislation and structures in place with proper guidelines how the money should be used. We must also give PDM secretariat a separate vote to manage the project better,” Mr Kwizera said.

He added: “The PDM was a good idea but the implementation has serious problems. We are just talking without any serious activities on the ground. They started implementing PDM without structures, appropriate legislation and without a good policy to guide the execution of the project. This explains why PDM is in shambles.”

He further said: “We don’t know who is supposed to do what. The role of MPs, LC5 and the District councils and other political leaders are not known. There are no proper sanctions prescribed in case of any breaches. The project is stuck in darkness… for instance, what happens in case some people decide abuse PDM money?”

Members of the Presidential Affairs Committee probing the iron sheets saga during a meeting with officials from the Karamoja Parliamentary Group at Parliament on February 27. PHOTO | FILE

“PDM has seven pillars but they have not told them where to use the money. So nobody has been allowed or advised how to use the money. It means it’s the banks gaining from PDM money because of these implementation challenges.”

Rethink PDM strategy

Weighing in on the future of PDM, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Matthias Mpuuga, has termed the project, “a stillbirth”, and advised that “whatever resources not yet dispatched should be repurposed! Just like no one overcame poverty vide Ntandikwa, Bonna bagaggawale, the Emyooga) et al; this is simply fresh sloganeering to no consequence.”

“With all these scandals and failures, it’s very clear the center is nolonger holding: to avoid anarchy during change... Let Mr Museveni inform the country when he is relieving his ministers involved in graft of their duties and the timetable for the transition,” Mr Mpuuga said yesterday when contacted to give his opinion on the key issues the president must address today.

With the per capita income of $987 (Shs 3.6m) and the introduction of the PDM initiative, Mr Henry Musasizi, the State Minister for General Duties in the Ministry of Finance, had hoped that Uganda would achieve the middle-income status this year after missing the 2020 target. The minister told Daily Monitor in May 2022 that Uganda’s per capital income will be in the range of $1,049 (Shs3.8m)

Currently, Uganda is among the economies in the low income cluster. Uganda’s per capita is still below $1,000 (Shs3.7m) just like Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, DR Congo, Togo and Mozambique, among others.

Even with the challenges in the project implementation, in the Financial Year 2023/2024, Finance minister Matia Kasaija promised that execution of the PDM will largely be premised on production, processing and marketing, and financial inclusion to drive faster growth and enhancement of livelihoods of the population. The other PDM Pillars No. 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 will be enablers for achievement of the overall goal and objectives of the PDM.

Disclosing the findings in their constituencies, Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM, Lwemiyaga) talked of “misguided love for self-praise” in the implementing government agencies, a syndrome he said is eroding public confidence and weakened agencies in charge of the PDM project.

Without realistic data and realistic feedback, Mr Kwizera explained that the PDM cannot succeed. “Some people in government don’t want realistic feedback, they want to be told they are doing well, yet the situation on ground is different,” Mr Kwizera said before asking the President to address PDM challenges.

With Uganda’s economy recovering from the shackles of a deadly pandemic, the President and Ministry of Finance officials however, believe the country will strike above the middle income status GDP per capita minimum of $1,030 by 2023.

Other issues

Former presidential aspirant Prof Venansius Baryamureeba explained that the last year, Mr Museveni together with the Executive made several trips abroad to attract investors and demanded to know the mechanisms cabinet is putting in place to ensure that these trips translate into foreign direct investments.

Prof Baryamureeba, an academic and former Make Vice Chancellor argued that in 1986, a farmer in the village would afford to pay for a child at any secondary school in Uganda. Today, he explained that even a secondary school teacher earning Shs500, 000 per month (about Shs6m per year) cannot be able to pay fees for one child in school because Shs2m per term is not enough in some schools. He then, asks: What is President Museveni doing to ensure inclusive education?  What are the strategies to make sure that all Ugandans have equal opportunity as regards access to education?

According to MPs the question of Karuma and Isimba must be explained. Karuma should have been completed three years ago so the country needs to know what’s happening because we are paying the loan yet evacuation of the power is not there. The Preside needs to explain what’s the problem?

Officials on PDM, Iron sheets, transition

Faruk Kirunda, Deputy Press Secretary to the President.

It is good that Mr [Matthias] Mpuuga [, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP)] and other Opposition members have picked interest in Parish Development Model (PDM). H.E the President has continually appealed for all categories of leaders to be involved in implementing PDM. Several districts are already disbursing money to beneficiaries after taking them through various stages of orientation, authentication and mindset development. The LoP and other members should be involved in ensuring that the programme succeeds.                                               

On the iron sheets saga, it is H. E the President who ordered the probe. When investigations are complete, the full force of the law will apply. It should be noted that Uganda of Museveni is not like that of Idi Amin where people would just be bundled off without following procedures or trying them in courts of law, and killed.As for the transition, how can Mr Mpuuga talk of transition only two years into the current term of office? It’s time to work. Transition is in the hands of Ugandans within the democratic dispensation prevailing in the country. Has the Hon Mpuuga told his people of Nyendo-Mukungwe when he is leaving power yet?

Raphael Magyezi, Local Government minister

There is a lot of enthusiasm and hope that this program will cause the change desired by the population, especially those living in subsistence.  However we’ve taken longer than was expected so as to prepare the Saccos, profile the beneficiaries and train them about appropriate enterprise selection and management. We are almost there and soon the people will get the money (in fact in some areas beneficiaries are already investing the money). There are guidelines but where necessary we’ve made some adjustments and communicated them to the implementing teams. A lot of effort has been put in the preparatory phase, it would not be wise to suspend it. It is not correct to imagine that PDM will achieve its objectives within one year.

What Ugandans say on PDM...

Evelyn Katusiime, a resident of Kibingo in Mbarara.

I did not receive any PDM funds. We formed a group of 20 people as they asked us to do and later our group was dropped because the leader of our group was in another. We then forgot about PDM funds.”

Innocent Byarugaba, resident of Mbale City.

We have been waiting for money for a long time.  The criteria of selecting the beneficiaries is also suspicious because the area chairperson told us that a few groups from our parish will get the money and others will have to wait.

Fred Kisolo, boda-boda cyclist 

I joined a PDM group with my wife but we have never received any money despite being told by the leaders that the PDM funds are on the Sacco account.  If it is true that this money is on the Sacco account why not give it to us to fund our enterprises.

Hamis Salimu, chairperson of Kirigime Ward in Kabale

It is true that the government deposited money on PDM Sacco accounts but it cannot be withdrawn. I appeal to the government to allow the withdrawal of this money so that farmers can fund their enterprises.

Sam Arineitwe, LCIII chairperson of Central Division in Kabale.

We need the government to tell the people why they cannot withdraw the PDM cash on the Sacco account. Many people come to my office demanding for answers which I fail to provide because I have no information.

Ali kakayira, resident of Mbale City.

Some of the conditions are unrealistic. During the recent PDM meeting, they told us that the selected beneficiaries will have to get 10 copies of the National Identity cards and also signatures from group members as guarantors. This is a waste of time.

Edwin Niwagaba Bwengura, a resident of Rubindi, Kashari in Mbarara

I don’t know anything about PDM. I was never in any group because I saw some people in groups not getting anything. I did not interest myself in joining any group for government money.”

Other expectations

1·      Stop eviction of Bibanja holders

2·      Why land reforms have delayed

3·      Deal with corruption in government

4·      Fight unemployment and poverty

5·      Government response to economic crisis

6·      Spell out mandate of the different institutions

7·      Explain the fate of censured minister Persis Namuganza

8·      State the govt position on Anti homosexuality bill

9·      What became of Covid-19 and anti-tick vaccines

10·      Address regional Security concerns

11·      Reduce taxes that are killing local businesses

12·      Disciplining of errant political leaders particularly Ministers

13·      Explain Operation Shujaa and the EAC Joint Regional Force

14·      Status of oil production in the country

15·      What happened to Karuma and Isimba power dams

16·      Illegal arrests/detention of Opposition members

17·      Accountability of his recent foreign trips

18·      Human rights situation in the country

19·      Status of Constitutional Review commission