The Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja has responded to claims by the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hillary Onek that the Premier has “totally usurped” his powers on matters of refugee and disaster management, saying this is time for serving the people of Uganda not sleeping.
Onek had earlier in a letter to the Premier threatened to let go his duties over what he calls rendering his office irrelevant by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja whom she accuses of rendering his docket irrelevant.
He says the Prime Minister has severally called meetings, went to disaster affected places and visited refugee settlements without informing the two line ministers but instead invites the Ministry’s staff – people he (Onek) is supposed to supervise.
“On 29th October 2021, you called for a meeting with the local leadership of Bududa without involving my office or even the area Members of Parliament which may lead to decisions being made that contradicts earlier and official cabinet position,” Onek says.
He adds, “You have also purged the department of disaster management, taken over the distribution of relief items and causing interdiction of staff members without proper investigation. The interdicted staff were accused of causing a financial loss without conducting a forensic audit by involving office of the auditor general.”
“On 5th October 2021, you wrote to my office halting the settlement of refugees in Kyangwali over land ownership dispute, this decision arrived at without involving either me or my deputy or any technical staff from the department of refugees,” explains the Minister.
“There are several reports about the land in Kyangwali like the report by the late Gen. Julius Oketta that dates as far back as 2014, the Nakalema report and other reports from Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development that should have helped guide your decision. Undercutting the Ministry of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees and directly working with local government officials will lead to further contradictions and confusion,” he adds.
The furious minister further reminded the Prime Minister that he (Onek) has worked with the previous three Prime Ministers but he did not see them engage in micro management of ministries.
“Their constitutional role is to coordinate legislative agenda, lead government business in parliament and monitor all ministries and government programs. They never got involved in the micro management of other ministries. If you decide to micromanage other ministries, what then is the role of the sector ministers who are supposed to plan, make policies and deliver on the manifesto of H.E the president?” asked Onek.
He thus advised the Prime Minister to put it in writing to the President (the appointing authority) that she is rendering Onek’s duties irrelevant so he can relieve himself of his responsibilities.
In response, the Prime Minister who says she is yet to receive the letter officially notes that she is a hands-on person who won’t tolerate laziness in extending services to the people.
“I have not seen the letter but I saw a letter circulating on social media. I want members to appreciate that we are changing our mode of operation. The other day you saw me with the first lady (education minister) struggling to ensure that we have teachers in schools, was I usurping her powers? The other day you saw me with Hon Katumba Wamala (Works and Transport Minister) struggling to ensure that people don’t do shoddy work and engaging in a number of government projects, does it mean that I usurped the powers of the line Ministers?” asked Nabbanja on Tuesday while addressing reporters at Parliament.
“I am a leader of government, I am mandated by Article 108 of the constitution to coordinate government business in all sectors. The other day I was with the minister of health when we were handling mandatory COVID testing. I have been to Mulago National Referral Hospital to see that our people are getting the best and I think I am doing very well when it comes to my roles and I know my boundaries,” she added.
The Premier who said it is indiscipline for the Minister to address her through social media further accused him of consistently not attending meetings on grounds that he is sick.
“My office and his are near each other, we have had a number of meetings sometimes he doesn’t attend and indeed even today he didn’t attend and we can not let Ugandans be suffocated. I told you from the onset of my term of office that we shall not allow laziness. Ever since I came to office, he says he is either sick or in constituency,” she noted.
Nabbanja was appointed as Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business in Parliament, by President Yoweri Museveni on 8th June 2021 becoming the 11th person and first female, to occupy the office since Uganda became independent in 1962.
She has been credited by many people for being “field” Prime Minister rooting it from the fact that she has severally engaged with people on the grassroot, distributing food and money.
Asked if the President, the appointing authority, is pleased with her way of operation, Nabbanja said, “I believe he is very happy, very happy.”
Speaking earlier to radio one, the Premier who said that “may be my speed may be too much for them,” revealed that Onek’s behavior towards her changed in August this year when nine officials from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) were interdicted on accusations of procuring substandard relief items for the flood victims in Kasese District.
“I have no problem with Hilary Onek except that since when we interdicted the other people who supplied substandard bed nets, blankets, he has never been the same. We have done a number of things together before, but since that time, he has tried to come to me pleading that I pardon those people and that could be his problem,” she says.
She says the likes of Onek are used to distributing relief items through offices and this is the reason he is finding it offensive to deliver it to the people on ground.
“Does supervising delivery of relief items and they reach people amount to a crime?” asked the Prime Minister, adding that she can not ignore instructions by the appointing authority and goes with those of Hilary Onek.
Speaking during the 2021/22 budget reading, President Yoweri Museveni explained the logic behind his new cabinet saying he followed Jesus Christ’s footsteps and opted for “fishermen” instead of the intellectuals or highly learned people .