President Yoweri Museveni has blamed the 10th parliament for delaying the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, even as the country struggled to beat the pandemic during the first wave.
Government chief whip Thomas Tayebwa yesterday told the chairpersons and vice chairpersons of the different parliamentary committees that the president was unhappy about the delays in approving supplementary budgets tabled before parliament last year.
He said that when the government sought a supplementary of Shs 292 billion which included Shs 18.5 billion for the COVID-19 vaccines in February 2021, the 10th parliament delayed its approval for over two months.
According to Tayebwa, who was quoting Museveni, the decision by parliament is what delayed the procurement of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India before the situation in India got out of hand, leading to the suspension of sales of Astrazeneca vaccines.
Tayebwa was speaking during orientation for committee leaders on their mandate and how they are expected to conduct business. He adds that if it wasn’t for parliament's delayed decision, the country could have moved far ahead towards the desired vaccination targets.
The ministry of Health intends to vaccinate up to 22 million Ugandans aged above 18, yet, according to records, less than 1.3 million people have so far received at least one of the two recommended jabs and less than 300,000 people have received the two recommended jabs.
Tayebwa also warned the leaders of the committee against "uncoordinated troop movement" especially when it comes to introducing bills, saying previously, there have been conflicts between the government and National Resistance Movement (NRM) members when it comes to who should table a bill. He observed a need for consultation before a bill is tabled before parliament.
Tayebwa also asked the chairpersons to avoid internal politics between government ministries, departments and agencies, and remain people of integrity. He says that the president had clearly stated that MPs should be people of integrity to save the image of parliament.
“In all our work let’s have integrity as we execute our roles in the committees. This will protect the image of parliament as a whole and the party. Let us be at the forefront to fight corruption in our committees," Tayebwa said.
He says that the Office of Government Chief Whip will develop a performance evaluation tool to be discussed with the members in the next meeting to assist in the evaluation of the committee’s performance in each session. He says that this will help them to determine what works well, and what could be improved in our committees.
He says members who do not work well with the party will be dropped from chairing committees, adding that, for instance, if the chairperson of the national economy committee fails to approve loans, they will be replaced, asking members not to be comfortable with nonperformance.
But Butambala County MP Muwanga Kivumbi, who sat on the budget committee that processed the supplementary budgets said that the supplementary budget was delayed by the fact that government figures and budgeting were not adding up. He equally faults the government for wishing to have its requests approved without scrutiny.