Says his huge cabinet is ‘bule kabiisa’
Forms a 15 Minister Taskforce to Rescue economy by September
By Our Reporters
On Wednesday, as Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda chaired the cabinet meeting at the Twin Towers office, something unusual happened. President Museveni sent a message requiring a total of 15 Ministers to walk out of the Rugunda meeting. The message required them to rush to nearby State House Nakasero where Museveni was waiting for them.
On arrival there, the Ministers were immediately joined by Museveni who shared with them his disappointment and emphasized a lot remains undone to live up to the much-parroted Hakuna Mchezo slogan yet time isn’t on his side anymore. The Ministers were required to come with their respective Ministries’ top technocrats-a PS and one other official. Apparently Museveni required the technocrats to be in attendance because they have always been used as a scapegoat by Ministers to justify bureaucratic delays and none performance.
“I have called you here to inform you we must fix the economy urgently. It has been one of our major accomplishments for a long time and we can’t afford to politically go down by keeping it business as usual because this problem can escalate and lead into political instability. The citizens are badly off and we must help them finding a solution,” Museveni was quoted as telling his audience in his preamble.
He reportedly praised and bashed some ministers for good and bad performance respectively. “I have called you here specifically because your respective Ministries are key actors in implementing interventions aimed at shielding our economy from further decline. We must increase exports to earn foreign exchange but also most importantly to create employment from our army of unemployed youth. It’s not rocket science. We can do it once we wake from our slumber as cabinet,” he was quoted as saying.
He added that even when it’s a general slumping in the global economy, that won’t be excuse for the NRM government to do nothing to alleviate the suffering of millions of poverty-stricken Ugandans. He also referred to the NRM-led Uganda’s past track record of excelling where the rest of the world was failing meaning its possible Uganda can live a totally different economic experience when the rest of the globe is slumping. He referred to the successful HIV-Aids management model which made Uganda a case study for the rest of the world.
Besides HIV, there are many other things on which Uganda has excelled at attracting admiration from the rest of the world including its management of refugees at a time when the rest of the world is hostile to hosting or receiving refugees. In fact former British Foreign Secretary David Milband yesterday appeared on CNN sharing his report on world refugees in which he praised Uganda very much while bashing the US and some EU members for brutally shutting their doors on refugees and immigrants. Milband, now running a private lobby group, said many good things about Uganda in that line and you would think he had become the new Museveni government spokesman.
The sudden departure of the 15 Ministers created some anxiety with some of the colleagues left behind under Rugunda wondering why they were being summoned to Nakasero but the two parallel cabinet meetings went on nevertheless. At Nakasero, Museveni told the Ministers that many of the interventions he wants to implement to rescue the economy require a legal framework which isn’t in place.
On this one he blamed the Ministers while praising Speaker Rebecca Kadaga who has lately been very critical of cabinet blaming several ministers for failing to bring bills before Parliament. At some point Kadaga threatened to close Parliament due to absence of business and legislative agenda spearheaded by Cabinet. This, Museveni said, must stop and directed each of the 15 ministers to expedite the required legislative agenda in Parliament so that by September he is able to execute many of the interventions he has planned to resurrect the economy. He said many investors are willing to come to Uganda but some of the things they want to do require legal framework (as a matter of best practices) which isn’t in place.
He had a few weeks ago publicly quarreled to Attorney General William Byaruhanga for not expediting legislation of many laws including those authorizing or providing for organ transplant in Uganda. While presiding over ground breaking ceremony for the $250m (almost a trillion) world class hospital in Lubowa (belonging to a group of Italians led by Enrica Panetta), Museveni turned to look at Byaruhanga wondering what he was waiting for to have a law providing for some of the activities and sophisticated surgical operations Panetta will be carrying out at the hospital.
“My sister Panetta there has become my very good consultant. She is always opening my eyes on things I have never about from my people in Cabinet. She for instance told me ‘Mr. President you need a law providing for organ transplant in Uganda, otherwise it will hamper investments like this one.’ This is something the Hon Attorney General had never told me about,” Museveni said adding that legislating such lows will save our foreign exchange (over $186m is annually spent treating our Ministers and other VIPs abroad) and attract many more great investments similar to Panetta’s Lubowa hospital.
He stressed to the 15 Ministers on Wednesday that it was in the NRM government’s strategic importance that such laws are expeditiously spearheaded by the respective Ministers in Parliament because once they are in place, attracting big investors in say medical tourism will be made much easier.
THE LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
Already a number of bills are lined up in Parliament, having been presented last week on the return of the MPs and Kadaga maintains they must be expeditiously passed. Museveni told his cabinet guys on Wednesday he won’t be expecting excuses. “I’m giving each one of you up to September whereafter I expect a detailed brief from each of you reporting on the progress being made.
If it remains business as usual and that progress isn’t made, don’t blame me for the consequences because I have been patient with you people enough,” he was quoted as saying. He told them it was wrong for them to come blaming technocrats for bureaucratic delays in their ministries whenever such matters are reported to him. He told them “you are ministers and political heads of the Ministries how can you be bullied by technocrats whom you are supposed to supervise?” He encouraged them to assert their authority and reprimand technocrats that sabotage/frustrate the expeditious execution of government interventions aimed at fast tracking economic recovery.
“You can inform me later and we see what to after you have reprimanded the technocrat and that will send out a strong signal otherwise there would be no reason being made ministers when you can’t cause things to move in your ministry because technocrats are disrespecting you,” he said in a veiled reference to some of the Ministers who continue to be disrespected and bullied by technocrats.
Some of the Ministries represented at the Nakasero State House meeting included that of Trade, Finance, Lands, Environment, the Attorney General’s Chambers, Investments, Works and Fisheries/MAAIF just to mention a few. Museveni specifically asked Finance Minister Matia Kasaijja why little progress was being made on the PPDA Amendment Bill that seeks to provide for interventions like local content comprising of things like BuBu-an acronym for Buy Uganda Build Uganda.
The idea is to make it mandatory for Ministries/MDAs’ Procurement and Disposal Units to favor local companies when giving out multi-billion contracts. For Evelyn Anite’s investment docket, Museveni was impressed that the process to legislatively improve on the Investment Code had already commenced and the required improvements had already been proposed to Parliament.
Museveni also tasked Anite to come up with an elaborate plan to revamp many of the government parastatals including those which had previously been liberalized (gov’t retaining 49%). Museveni showed disgust with sham foreign investors who came in and made things even worse in parastatals like UTL, National Housing, Kilembe Mines and others.
He reflected on the fact that when these once very thriving parastatals are made vibrant again, thousands of jobs will in the long term be created for the youth. The quick progress being made at UTL, whereby the Administrator Bemanya Twebaze has saved lots of money and made many things right in such a short time, was given as an example of what well calculated timely interventions can make to rescue some of these struggling parastatals whose revamping can greatly rescue the economy.
With Museveni’s active backing, Bemanya has already written to all MDAs which owe UTL money (it’s in billions) to urgently pay up to enable improvements that will make it attractive and easier for government to get a strategic investor replacing the filthy Libyans whose LAP Green Investment bungled up the company and subsequently pulled out. In the Wednesday meeting, a disappointed Museveni fell short of apologizing to his ministers for the privatization policy which up to this day has only made life harder for the ordinary people and hasn’t delivered the results that were initially expected. The Ministry of Environment was among those represented as well as that of tourism.
Museveni asked on the progress being made to push the legislative agenda aimed at revising laws governing Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements. This is important because investors have either relied on weak laws to take advantage of Uganda or as an excuse to justify failed projects despite generous government incentives. The guys from this ministry had no clear answers yet in Rugunda’s cabinet meeting of the same day, chaos ensued after the State Environment Minister tabled a report on the proposed restructuring of the NEMA board. Accusing Sam Cheptorus of favoring his own Sabiny people while determining new NEMA Board representation, many Ministers demanded to be allowed to also bring in their board members.
“It was a shame that instead of helping the colleague [Cheptorus who was absent] to improve on his document, the ministers just began fighting for positions on the NEMA Board and in the end the document was thrown out,” said a cabinet source unhappy with the eagerness Ministers exhibited with each insisting to have his/her constituents on the Board.
Each NEMA board member earns a monthly retainer of Shs7m and others perks. Museveni wants progress made to have urgent legislation that will enable him intervene in environment sector as well. There was Betty Amongin of the lands ministry whom Museveni required to expedite the legislation of the Uganda Land Commission Act that will provide for scrapping of many entities and adding them to ULC which must become the Uganda Land Authority (ULA).
As we recently exclusively reported, the new Authority will comprise of ULC, UWA, NFA, NEMA and the district lands boards among others. Museveni believes this Authority will be used to overcome difficulties related to land management and registration among other hardships that have been contributing to the cost of doing business in Uganda for many investors.
Amongin has duly done her part and the Bill is already with Parliamentary Counsel for final touches before it can be presented to the House. Vincent Sempijja’s MAAIF was also represented at the Nakasero meeting and Museveni specifically asked about progress being made to have quick legislation aimed at cleaning up the fisheries sector. He considers this sector to be one with huge export potential but continues to be mismanaged by filthy MAAIF technocrats whom Sempijja hasn’t yet had strong enough teeth to bite.
This is why Museveni emphasized that Ministers should be assertive because once they assert their Authority; no technocrats will afford acting dodgy in this Hakuna Mchezo era. We also separately learnt that, having known from history that hard economic times have always sparked political uprisings by frustrated masses on the streets, Museveni is finally cowed and is open to ideas from all fellow leaders.
It’s no longer like in the past when he used to know it all and people only went to such meetings to listen to his long lectures. He wants Parliament, especially members of the NRM Caucus, to also play a role and make some input.
“He doesn’t want to be blamed alone anymore. This is why at the upcoming Kyankwanzi retreat; he will be expecting written proposals from each MP sharing the crippling economic situation in the respective constituencies and proposed solutions,” said an inside source adding that at the upcoming Kyankwanzi NRM Caucus retreat economically well-schooled MPs stand a high chance to capture the big man’s attention.
This is why some MPs have resorted to hiring seasoned economic professors at Makerere and Mubs who are busy coaching them ahead of the Kyankwanzi retreat.
“The feeling is that there is a cabinet reshuffle in the coming months and this is the best opportunity to shine and show Mzee that you have some pragmatic ideas on how to solve the economic crisis,” said an MP who confessed being among those busy cramming economic theories and figures in order to impress Sevo at the upcoming Kyankwanzi do.
“I intend to exhibit deeper understanding of the economy, be as outspoken as I can at that retreat and leave the rest to God,” the NRM legislator further confessed.