The Minister of State for Planning David Bahati on has failed to confirm whether Uganda will be ready for commercial oil exploration by 2020.
The Minister was appearing before Parliament’s Budget Committee to explain the status of recommendations made by Parliament on the Ugx 30 tn Budget Framework Paper for 2017-2018.
Instead the minister opted for his easiest escape route.
“If all factors remain constant, we shall definitely be able to meet the set timelines,” said Bahati.
First, Mr Barnabas Tinkasiimire (NRM-Buyaga West County) described the three-year target as ambitious and unattainable.
“We have been on the ground and there is virtually nothing, who are you trying to deceive?” Mt Tinkasiimire asked the Minister.
The lawmaker contends that with limited funding to infrastructural development, many processes “such as tendering and procurement are yet to be started yet government keeps promising the impossible.”
“Where will all these pipelines pass…when you go to the countryside, many projected affected persons are yet to be fully paid and relocated and to make it worse, no single road has been completed,” said Tinkasiimire.
Ms Anna Maria Nakabirwa (NRM-Kiboga) accused government of only focusing on the Albertine region for infrastructural development, arguing that neighbouring districts must also be taken into consideration.
“Districts like Kiboga, Masindi and others that are not part of the Albertine are of a strategic benefit to the oil industry but all projects are concentrated in Bunyoro yet roads in these districts will be bearing the weight of supporting the oil region,” she said.
Ms Nankabirwa wants government in its preparations towards commercial oil exploration to also support all major access roads that will be used by oil trucks.
“The Kampala-Hoima Road and other acess roads out of the Albertine must be directly supported with strong bridges and culverts lest government risks a traffic breakdown,” said Nankabirwa.
The members were also concerned that government has kept shifting goal posts on commercial oil exploration from 2009 to 2017 and now to 2020.
Elgon County MP Ignatius Wamakuyu (NRM) the committee Vice Chairperson presided over the Monday meeting where tensions flared in the air.
“Hon. Minister, can you assure this Committee that the 2020 deadline is attainable…no more extensions…” he begged.
Instead of soothing the tension Mr Bahati nearly brought the committee to a standstill by making what members describes yet again as “unrealistic submissions.”
Mr Bahati told the Committee that government was partnering with the British Establishment to construct Kabale International Airport at Ugx 298 million.
“How can the minister make such a blatant lie to the committee, how can an international airport go for that money, is it a house?” Tinkasiimire asked.
Mr Okin Ojara (Inde-Chua County) demanded of the minister to lay before the committee evidence showing government’s undertaking with Britain.
The committee also asked the minister to avoid brief case dealings whose agreements risk tax payers’ money, since the matter under consideration was at the center of national interest.
Later, Mr Bahati journalists that the matter of the airport was a complex matter to quickly be understood by the legislators on first mention.
He said that the Ugx 298 million is for preliminary undertakings to be commenced in July this year, ahead of negotiations with the British Export Bank, the main funders of the airport, whose deal is yet to be concretised.
“We shall arrive at the final figures (costs) at the end of the negotiations and parliament will be duly informed,” Bahati said.