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in the media

At the end of their four-day retreat at Serena Lake Victoria Resort Kigo in Wakiso district, 18 members of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee endorsed the Raphael Magyezi amendment, which if given the much-needed parliamentary nod of approval would scrap presidential age limits.

The 29-member committee was booked into the luxurious resort after meeting President Museveni.

Committee members opposed to the amendment had threatened to boycott the retreat, however, Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East), Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri) and NRM’s Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman) eventually turned up at Kigo after their contacts in the committee turned against them.

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee in ameeting with President Museveni

The Observer understands that as the committee left for State House, those opposed asked Bwamba MP Gafabusa Muhumuza and his Busiki counterpart Paul Akamba to serve as listening posts. But to their surprise, the contacts did not relay any messages but ended up voting in support.

Some of Museveni’s proposals during the December 5 meeting at State House Entebbe were to form part of the committee’s recommendations ahead of the second reading of Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi’s age limit bill.

The recommendations include the extension of the tenure of office of the president and MPs to seven years from the current five provided for under Article 105(1).

The particular clause is one of the entrenched provisions of the constitution under Article 260, which means it cannot be amended through a mere vote in Parliament.

It must go through a national referendum. Museveni first spoke about the extension of office terms during his address to the NRM National Executive committee members at Entebbe. (See: Museveni: 5-year term is too short, The Observer, October 30).

Nakifuma MP Robert Kafeero Ssekitooleko first unsuccessfully hawked the idea during the 9th Parliament. Museveni’s resurrection of the matter saw it controversially slipped into the committee report, but with a recommendation that it be decided through a referendum.

“It is a matter that generated a lot of debate and we decided that we cannot legislate for ourselves, because it is a matter that directly touches us. That’s why we resolved that we leave it to the people to decide,” an MP said.

TERM LIMITS

The second issue recommended for decision through a referendum is restoration of term limits. All MPs at the retreat, except Nansana Municipality’s Robert Ssebunya Kibirige, voted for restoration.

It was the very first time Ssebunya was attending the committee. The two five-year term limits were provided for under Article 105(2) but were scrapped during the 2005 amendment of the constitution.

Though it is not entrenched under Article 260, the committee still recommended that it too be subjected to a referendum.

“Once passed, the amendments shall not benefit us, instead, they will benefit those who will be elected in 2021,” a member of the committee said.

MINORITY REPORT

At a press conference on Monday, Sseggona and Wilfred Niwagaba announced that they had compiled a minority report.

The other signatories of the minority report are, Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Anna Adeke Ebaju (National Female Youth), Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kira Municipality), Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality), Katuntu and Amoding.

The Observer has established that their dissension is on the removal of the age limit and the seven-year extension.

The main report was endorsed by Veronica Bichetero (Kaberamaido), Robinah Rwakoojo (Gomba West), Brenda Asinde Suubi (Iganga Woman), Caroline Muhwezi (Rukiga Woman), Sam Bitangaro (Bufumbira South), Kenneth Obote Ongalo (Kalaki) and Aston Kajara (Mwenge South) among others.

On Tuesday, the president met NRM MPs who were anticipating debate on the committee report later in the afternoon.

The meeting discussed the extension of the five-year term. Museveni reportedly told MPs that such an extension will allow Lands minister Betty Amongi who he picked from UPC to settle in well.

A committee of five lawyer MPs headed by deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana was constituted to study the legal implications of a term extension. Rukutana will work with Bichetero, Obua and Gastur Mugoya.

“The caucus has tasked us to examine it legally, politically and critically to understand the implications of it,” Mugoya said.

sadabkk@observer.ug

2 days 10 hours ago

The president’s younger brother, Gen Salim Saleh, has been linked to an Internal Security Organisation-funded investigation report released last week which put the spotlight on wasteful expenditure in government ministries and agencies.

In the coming weeks, Bukooli Central MP Solomony Silwany, a member of the investigating team, will table a private member’s bill, urging the merger of various government agencies and authorities to cut down public expenditure.

Last Friday, Silwany, the NRM parliamentary caucus vice chairman, addressed a press conference  and gave his government a 30-day ultimatum to table a bill for the scrapping of agencies listed in the November 25 Saleh report to President Museveni as wasteful.

The report titled; Rationalisation of commissions, agencies and authorities in Uganda for better efficiency is based on an investigation by 12 people, referred to as “cadres” in the report.

The 12 cadres were led by Salim Saleh; former deputy chief of defence forces Gen Charles Angina and former state minister for Economic Monitoring Henry Banyenzaki.

Gen Salim Saleh with former deputy chief of defence forces Gen Charles Angina

Their investigation followed a July 12 letter Museveni wrote to leaders in government, demanding information on the cost of the said agencies.

While the report has been widely publicised as the work of ISO, well-placed sources told The Observer that none of the investigating cadres works officially for ISO. But still, their findings were released by Lt Col Joseph Aliganyira, director for political affairs at the security organ, on December 5.

MPs Silwany and Joseph Muyomba Kasozi (Bukoto Mid-West), plus three unnamed Makerere University dons, among them, Ramathan Ngobi, were also involved.

The dons worked alongside a technocrat in investment affairs and an independent researcher. ISO funded the investigation.

“ISO was used because it [the investigation] needed a formal government structure to own it,” a source said.

Banyenzaki said the investigation has been on for nearly two years but gained momentum after Museveni’s July 12 letter.

“It is continuation of the work I was doing as [state] minister for Economic Monitoring…we started on it with Gen Saleh when we were still operating from our command post at Serene [Suites Mutundwe],” Banyenzaki said.

The cadres analysed the 2016/17 national budget, performance and made field trips. It is understood that several agencies were uncooperative, yet unknown to them they were being monitored from within.

“We contacted the listening posts in the agencies who got us all the information that we needed. We then scrutinised the relevant documents, work plans, budgets and their proposed budget requests for next financial year before moving out to all districts for further investigations,” a team member told The Observer.

After receiving the report, Museveni invited some members of the team, notably Banyenzaki and Silwany, to make a presentation to cabinet on December 4 at State House Entebbe. Both Silwany and Kasozi declined to be interviewed for this article.

THE REPORT

The report classified the agencies into “money-consuming” and “money-generating parastatals.” 

The bulk of waste is on foreign travel, workshops, welfare and entertainment and consultancy services. Most funds (Shs 392.7bn) are spent on consultancy services.

“Public servants are using this channel as a coping strategy to top up [their] incomes, the work they are supposed to do within the ministries is channeled to consultancies, they also use the consultancies as a sanctuary to conceal their poor requisite skills for the work they were employed to perform,” the report noted.

By the end of this financial year, 11 ministries, namely; Lands, Water and Environment, Finance, Agriculture, Energy, Education, Defence, Works, Local Government, Office of the Prime Minister and Health will have spent Shs 290.7bn yet 19 agencies doing similar work will spend Shs 54.9bn on consultants.

Workshops and seminars will consume Shs 104bn, which, according to the report, is enough to run the ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives whose Shs 85bn budget is always not fully funded. Travel accounts for Shs 352.7 billion while Shs 190.6bn was budgeted to cater for welfare and entertainment.

SALARIES

Of Uganda’s Shs 29 trillion budget, more than Shs 3.36 trillion is spent on salaries. Central government takes Shs 1.7 trillion and local governments Shs 1.6 trillion.

The agencies spend 10 percent more on salaries compared to ministries. In ministries, general staff earn much lower than contractual staff.

Ordinary staff at Finance consume Shs 4.3bn while those on contract take Shs 18.7bn. At ministry of Health, ordinary employees share Shs 5.8bn and contract workers take Shs 16.7bn. Jim Mugunga, the Finance ministry spokesman, said the mismatch is due to the level of expertise.

sadabkk@observer.ug

2 days 10 hours ago

Several people have died inexplicably after undergoing brain surgery at Mengo hospital performed by American doctors between October 23 and 29. Now, the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council and the ministry of Health want to know what went wrong.

Dr Rose Mutumba, the medical director at Mengo hospital, promised to issue a statement, scheduled a press conference and then kept on postponing it. As relatives demand for answers, Mutumba repeatedly said she was busy in meetings and could not comment.

One of the organisers of the medical camp, Dr Joel Kiryabwire, has said he will not comment since the media has already exaggerated the issue, without knowing whether the patients had a high risk of dying or surviving.  

The visiting American doctors getting themselves ready at Mengo hospital on October 22. Photo: @alamb

Their combined silence leaves the death of 63-year-old Hajji Mustafah Kisayire unexplained. The former resident of Lukuli Nanganda in Makindye division died on November 29. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. His family had hoped that the medical camp run by neurosurgeons from America would help him. According to Hajji Muhamood Katongole, his brother’s problems started in July with a painful eye infection.

Doctors at ASG Eye hospital in Kampala found that his optical nerves were affected and recommended a CT scan. A scan performed at Nsambya hospital revealed Kisayire’s brain tumor.

ASG Eye hospital then advised that the tumor first be removed before any work on his eyes could be considered. Several doctors in Mulago national referral hospital also made the same observation.

Kisayire later consulted Dr Hussein Senyonjo, a neurosurgeon at Platinum Medical Centre, Buganda road, Kampala. Dr Senyonjo said he would operate for Shs 18 million. It took a month to raise the money but when the family went to confirm a date, Dr Senyonjo “told us he wasn’t available for a month since he was travelling to America.”

“He advised us to wait for him after his trip, or go for surgery in this camp. Kisayire refused to wait for a month because of too much pain and requested Senyonjo to recommend him to the camp. Senyonjo connected us to Dr Joel Kiryabwire, a neurosurgeon at Mulago, who was among the organisers of this camp,” Katongole said.

They first deposited Shs 4 million for the operation, an amount which went up to Shs 9.5 million after medication and admission costs were included at Mengo hospital.

“The American doctors came with their equipment which they used in the operation and [set up] three theatres at Albert Cook [ward], where they operated on about 20 people in five days.

“Apart from the pain in the head Kisayire was feeling, the other parts of his body were okay. He came driving himself, understanding properly and was operated on October 25,” Katongole said.

After eight hours in theatre, he was transferred to intensive care for three days and later to the hospital ward for a week. He showed signs of recovering although his memory was weak.

“He was discharged and they told us, he will recover slowly. In that process Issa Kikungwe also came and told us he was going for the same operation for the second time although the first one was done abroad,” Katongole says.

Kikungwe, the former MP for Kyadondo South, died in the Intensive Care Unit. At home, Kisayire relapsed and lost his memory. The family took him back to Mengo hospital where he died.

“I am accusing the American doctors for leaving immediately after the operation without monitoring the patients’ progress as they recover. They would have stayed for two weeks and exchanged ideas with Ugandan doctors and nurses who were monitoring patients. Why were they rushing to go?” Katongole asked.  

Hajji Mustafah Kisayire (R) at Mengo hospital. Photo:@alamb

Katongole says the family is preparing a formal petition to the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council (UMDPC).  Dr Gubala Katumba Ssentongo, registrar at UMDPC, told The Observer that the Americans’ trip was made with the knowledge of ministry of health.

But this information will be little comfort to Amina Marsal, wife to Hajji Abud Marsal of Entebbe. Marshal says her husband is in critical condition after being operated on in Mengo hospital by the same doctors.

“After the operation on October 23, he spent three weeks in a coma in the Intensive Care Unit at Mengo hospital. We paid Shs 47 million for the operation and medication yet earlier they told us it was free operation in the camp,” she said.

Amina told The Observer that Abud is now paralysed, has lost his memory, can’t eat, move or drink and his head has started swelling. On December 9, state minister for health Sarah Achieng Opendi promised an inquiry.

Opendi said the ministry will establish if the doctors entered the country legally. If they entered illegally, she said, they will be held liable.

“We are going to start investigations after people raising complaints to Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council,” she told The Observer.

Dr Katumba Sentongo said he is waiting for a report from the camp organisers, detailing how many people were operated on, those who died and what went wrong.

“Since we approved them to assist Ugandans, the ministry of Health gave each of them a waiver to allow them work. Other doctors who come here to do business, they pay a fee of $400 (Shs 1.2m) to allow them to work,” Katumba said.

Katumba said UMDPC conducted an independent search and verified their qualifications.

“We also got recommendations from their referees and tracked their background online to confirm their licenses. But what we need to know is what went wrong in this operation. If there is a failure somewhere, the person will be responsible,” he said.

He said they were invited officially by neurosurgeons at Mulago but they worked at Mengo hospital to train doctors in brain surgery and reduce backlog of brain tumor patients. They were 10 doctors and nurses headed by Dr Gerald Arthur Grant and Dr Allen Lin Ho, both registered by the Medical Board of California.

Others were Dr Kimberly Bojanowski Hoang and Dr Michael Martin Haglund, registered in North Carolina as neurological surgeons. Katumba, however, observed that there are always high chances of death with brain surgery. Survival chances are only 15 per cent, he said.

“We haven’t yet started investigations since we haven’t got complainants. In our procedure, we start investigations after a complainant or ministry of health writing to us. The complainants should be responsible for the case,” he said.

Katumba said Uganda has only six practicing neurosurgeons and five cardio-thorax surgeons, all at Mulago. This reality sees experts inviting foreign doctors to come and assist.

“The experts from abroad also come with modern used equipment which they use in these camps and also train our doctors on how to use them. They donate this equipment to us since they are expensive,” he said.

The public relations officer, Mulago, Enock Kusasira, said on Friday that whenever they conduct camps, ministry of health is informed for approval purposes.

In October, UMDPC issued guidelines for all medical surgical camps conducted here, requiring approvals by National Drug Authority, among others. Were those guidelines followed in the case of the dead and dying from Mengo’s brain surgery camp?

2 days 10 hours ago

Kyambogo University seeks to recruit an additional 234 lecturers so as to handle the soaring number of students.
According to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Elly Katunguka Rwakishaya, currently there are 386 lecturers teaching 25,000 students on campus and another 45,000 in affiliated institutions namely National Teachers Colleges, Primary Teachers' Colleges and a host of other institutions.

He explains that they are involved in talks with the Public Service and Finance and Planning Ministries to allow them recruit 234 lecturers so as to bring the number of academic staff to 620. Professor Katunguka says the increasing number of students is piling pressure on the few academic staff and resources in the university.

"The current 386 trainers and teachers are still below the number of staff required to manage the student numbers and we are in discussions with relevant ministries of our urgent need for more human resources," he said during day one the 14 graduation ceremony held on Wednesday at the university main campus.

136 of the 386 academic staff are Phd holders. This means that they will be able to develop new graduate programmes and to supervise postgraduate students in addition to increasing the number of grants and publications from Kyambogo University.

Prof. Katunguka noted that the university has recruited 60 Graduate Fellows to aid teaching of the students and to fill gaps brought about by under-staffing. Graduate Fellows are the best students who scored first class or second class upper degrees in the recent graduation.

The vice chancellor says these; "Will form the low cadre of academic staff, and this will be the first step in the drive of the university to grow its own professors." According to Prof. Katunguka, due to the high student numbers, they have been hiring over 700 part-time lecturers spread across various faculties and departments.

He however, notes dependence on part time staff comes with a huge financial burden and compromises the quality of teaching. The part timers often hold the university at ransom over accumulated allowances and arrears. The university has also introduced several undergraduate; Masters and doctorate programs.

Some of the new programs that started this year include; Bachelor of Graphics Design, Bachelor of Textile and Apparel design, Bachelor of Interior and landscape design, Bachelor of Science in Leather tanning technology, Bachelor of electrical engineering and Bachelor of Mechatronics and Biomedical engineering.

At Masters Level, the university introduced a Master of Science in Human Nutrition, Master in Special Needs Education, Master of engineering in construction technology, Master of engineering in manufacturing systems, Master of engineering in structural engineering, Master of engineering in Water and Sanitation engineering and a Master of Science in Chemistry in addition to offering Ph.D in sports science and Ph.D in Education.

Majority of the new courses are taught by part-time lecturers and contract staff, which Prof. Katunguka says is unsustainable and asks government to expedite the process to allow them to recruit the required staff.

2 days 10 hours ago

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