By HOMELAND MEDIA TEAM
The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among has asked both the Ministries of Finance and ICT to impose disciplinary action against Aminah Zawedde, the Permanent Secretary at ICT Ministry for the alleged illegal disbandment of the National Information and Technology Authority (NITA)-Uganda.
The directive followed a concern raised by Bukooli Central MP, Solomon Silwany, who informed Parliament that certain individuals are misusing the window of merging of government agencies to take over the role of Parliament, citing Zawedde who recently wrote a letter announcing the disbandment of NITA-U and its reversal back to the Ministry of ICT.
“The Permanent Secretary of ICT wrote a letter instructing and stopping this vote and transferring the vote to the Ministry of ICT yet it is only parliament that should be doing this,” Silwany said.
He added that when the Executive Director of NITA-U, Hatwib Mugasa wrote a letter to the Attorney General seeking guidance on the letter written by the Permanent Secretary, the Attorney General described the disbandment letter as illegal, saying the role of making laws is exclusive to parliament, not permanent secretaries.
Speaker Among lashed out at Zawedde for her illegal actions, citing Paragraph 4.26 Treasury instructions that outline guidelines needed for fulfillment before any agency receives a vote including the presence of a legal framework, running the vote based on the financial year, over 50% allocated from consolidated fund, ability to raise non-tax revenue in a financial year, prepare payment under instructions of the accountant general and arrange activities based on the medium-term framework. The Speaker said that it is only when a vote violates any of these requirements that it ceases to exist and asked the Ministry of Finance to ensure that the Permanent Secretary’s scheme to takeover NITA-Uganda are aborted.
“It is irregular for the Accounting officer to engineer the closure of the vote without adducing evidence against the evidence mentioned by the Treasury Operations Instructions. Even if there was evidence of a violation, the powers of creation is vested on the Secretary to Treasury on the recommendation of the Accountant General as stipulated in section 11(2)(a) of the Public Finance Management Act 2015,” the Speaker remarked.
Chris Baryomunsi, Minister of ICT denied knowledge of the action taken by Zawedde saying he wasn’t consulted before the disbandment letter was authored, arguing that the issue of rationalization of agencies is being handled by cabinet and at an appropriate time, when the executive is ready, Parliament will be informed formally.
Minister Baryomunsi said, “I am just seeing this letter for the first time and she is out of order because she should have discussed this with me because I sit in a cabinet together with my ministers of state, we should have guided her. But this letter is premature and therefore, the letter will be withdrawn from the Ministry.”
While weighing into the matter, Henry Musasizi, State Minister for Finance (General Duties) pointed out that it is the mandate as the Ministry of Finance to create votes and also withdraw votes if necessary and such powers aren’t bestowed to the Permanent Secretaries of various Ministries but rather the Secretary to Treasury.
“I am just wondering how a Permanent Secretary from another Ministry gets into withdrawing a certain vote without our knowledge as Ministry of Finance. As far as we are concerned, we haven’t withdrawn nor do we have the intention to withdraw the NITA-U Vote until this entity ceases to exist. As far as we are concerned, NITA-U is an entity of government with a vote and a budget until further notice, “ said Musasizi.
Butambala County’s Muwanga Kivumbi rebuked Ministries for scheming and bullying entities under their supervision, especially when they anticipate huge funding in the pipeline, saying Zawedde’s decision comes at the time NITA-U is seeking for a loan to extend internet connectivity across the country.
“That is US$200 Million is about to be borrowed to be used by NITA-U. In this we are seeing a scheme by the Ministry of ICT to take over the mandate of NITA-U because of this loan,” said Muwanga.
He argued that the same scheme was executed at the Ministry of Energy that rushed to merge the Rural Electrification Agency after the entity expressed interest to borrow US$400 Million to extend power to rural areas, a decision that has left Ugandans stuck with electric powers that have no electricity.