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MPs Divided On Merger Of Rural Electrification Agency

Members of Parliament on the Natural Resources Committee are divided on the move by the government to revert the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.

This followed a presentation by Ruth Nankabirwa, the Minister of Energy in which she appealed to the MPs to support a motion scheduled to be presented to Parliament by the Ministry of Finance that funds that were allocated to REA to be reallocated to the Ministry.

In February 2021, Cabinet approved recommendations for the rationalization of government Agencies, Commissions and Authorities. The overall objective is to eliminate structural ambiguities, functional duplication, overlaps, and wasteful expenditure and realize short term and long term savings.

Cabinet also on August 8 gave the Ministry of Finance authorization to move parliament to allow budgetary funds meant for the REA to be re-allocated to the Ministry of Energy. REA is under the first phase (the financial year 2021/2022) that focuses on a comprehensive review of 18 government ministries and 97 agencies that are affected by the merger, mainstreaming and transfer of functions.

The second phase (the financial year 2022/2023) would focus on the remaining 6 government offices, ministries and 61 agencies that were recommended for retention. The proposal to merge agencies followed an Internal Security Organization –ISO report demanded by President Yoweri Museveni for information regarding the expenditure of ministries and agencies.

The report revealed that a lot of money was being spent on duplication or overlapping functions of ministries and agencies. ISO then recommended reforms of merging agencies and disbanding some to cut on wasteful expenditure. The agencies in question account for 37 percent of the government’s wage bill and scrapping them would save 1 trillion Shillings a year in salaries.

Emmanuel Otaala the Committee Chairperson suggested that the REA merger is halted until the committee discusses and makes a decision on the matter.

However, Nankabirwa said that halting the process would attract legal implications from contractors who are demanding money from REA since the money cannot be paid out until the merger is finalized.

Nankabirwa also said that there is no court injunction stopping the government from proceeding with the merger.

“If there was a verdict that court stopped a process, then I would be defying the court. People will always go to court. REA is streamlined to the Ministry and some workers took REA to court and it is personal. Those will not bog us down,” she said.

Fort Portal City Central MP, Alex Ruhunda supported the move for the merger saying that this will allow people to get access to electricity.

Sheema Municipality MP, Dickson Kateshumbwa also supported Ruhunda’s position. He however appealed that the Ministry avails the committee with a road map of the process.

Hoima City Woman MP, Asinasi Nakato appealed to the Ministry to guarantee that REA staff do not lose their jobs.

-URN

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