Highlights from the Parliament sitting on the 3rd of March, 2020.
National IDs debacle
The sitting was presided over by the Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga. In her communication, she informed members that it had become very difficult for Ugandans to acquire and replace National Identity Cards. She told the Members that she had learnt that the process can even take about four years.
MPs debated the challenges faced by Ugandans while obtaining their National Identity Cards. Hon. Muhammad Nsereko proposed that Parliament should instruct the National Identification & Registration Authority (NIRA) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to issue all the people’s lost National Identity Cards noting that Parliament appropriates money for such work. On the same matter, Hon. Waluswaka James proposed that the charge of 50,000 Uganda shillings should be removed when seeking replacement for National Identity Cards. Members also expressed concern that the services of NIRA are not decentralised which makes it difficult for people from rural areas to obtain or replace their Identity Cards.
In response, Hon. Obiga Kania, the State Minister for Internal Affairs, presented a statement regarding the decentralization of NIRA services. He informed the House that while effective decentralization of national ID registration services remains a key priority for the government, there are a number of issues and challenges that need to be addressed at NIRA.
He asserted that under the current operational setup, enrollment data captured at the NIRA district offices has to be manually transported on hard drives to Kololo and uploaded onto the central server for processing. This is primarily because the NIRA district and division offices are not connected to the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI). To date, only 433 staff (50.2%) of out of the 865 staff as per the approved structure have been appointed and deployed across the 117 NIRA service centres countrywide, including the Ko1olo headquarters and district and division offices out of the 134 districts in the country. The Minister said that this leaves a staffing gap of 432 staff. The overall effect of this staffing gap on service delivery cannot be overemphasized.
In the same sitting, a statement to Parliament on Coronavirus updates and Preventive measures to be taken by Public was presented by Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, Minister of State for Health, Primary Health Care. The Minister informed members that Entebbe and Naguru referral hospitals as well as Mulago National Referral Hospital Grade A have been prepared to receive and manage suspected and confirmed cases. In addition, she said that all regional referral hospitals are being prepared to manage people who might fall sick. Ambulances have been provided to transport suspected cases to the appropriate level of care. The Uganda Virus Research Institute has the necessary equipment and reagents to test and confirm any suspected COVID-19 sample in the country.
The Health Minister informed Parliament that her Ministry also mobilized a mobile laboratory facility for additional testing capacity and the training for usage of this facility has been completed and arrangement for its use was being set. The minister also highlighted some of the preventive measures that people should adopt including; regular and thorough cleaning of hands with an alcohol-based rub or washing them with water and soap, covering the mouth and nose with tissue or a handkerchief when coughing and sneezing, maintaining a reasonable distance when there people who are coughing or sneezing.
Hon. Mbambali Muyanja said that some Members of Parliament had recently travelled back from South Korea and wondered if parliament was safe from coronavirus. He proposed a temporary ban on Members of Parliament, Executive and business people from travelling to risky countries.
Parliament passed the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019 at the third reading. Majority of the Members of Parliament were in favour of maintaining the nomination fees for Parliamentary Elections should be maintained at 3,000,000 Uganda shillings. Some members, however, argued that this will disenfranchise the majority of the young people who would wish to run for Parliamentary elections but cannot afford the 3,000,000 shillings. Hon. Nandala Mafabi proposed that the nomination fees be reduced to 200,000 Uganda shillings. Hon. Olanya Gilbert was also proposing that the fees be reduced to cater for the majority of the youth. “Let us be realist, the public is not happy with the 3,000,000 million Uganda Shillings for nomination fees. This will exclude fresh graduates who can’t afford such money.” He said. However, the status quo was maintained at 3,000,000 nomination fees in favour of the majority members and the bill was passed with amendments.