The Deputy Speaker, Anita Among, has directed government to constitute a Disaster Preparedness Commission to promptly respond to disasters in the country.
“Government is mandated by the Constitution to constitute a Disaster Preparedness Commission. Prime Minister, empower the ministries, do not do all the work. Let us not take responsibilities of other ministries, you will break down,” Among said during the plenary sitting of Parliament on Tuesday, 5 October 2021.
Article 249 provides that there shall be a Disaster Preparedness and Management Commission for Uganda to deal with both natural and man-made disasters. In the article, Parliament is required to prescribe the composition, functions and procedure for implementation of the functions of the commission.
The Deputy Speaker’s directive follows Members raising a range of disaster occurrences in their constituencies that require government intervention and assistance.
Members were riled that several times after the occurrence of a disaster, when approached, the Office of the Prime Minister says that it lacks the required funds.
Hon. Juliet Agasha (NRM, Mitooma district) kicked off the debate saying that several schools and churches were destroyed by storms which have left scores displaced in Mitooma district.
“The people who were affected have no food. I request the government to come to the aid of the affected people. In as much as schools are still closed, they need to be reconstructed,” she said.
Hon. Prossy Akampurira (NRM, Rubanda district) added that while disasters have ravaged the whole country, accessing funds for relief items is frustrating.
Hon. Dicksons Kateshubwa (NRM, Sheema Municipality) advised government to decentralize disaster related funds, saying that local governments should be empowered to handle disasters.
Hon. Lillian Aber (NRM, Kitgum district) called for a clear plan on disaster risk management since some disasters happen repeatedly.
“We need government to give us a clear plan so that we do not keep raising these issues,” she said.
Hon. Naome Kabasharira (Ind., Rushenyi County) blamed the increasing disasters to the effects of climate change, saying that government should find ways of mitigating climate change.
“There is need to go back to the drawing board. I have never seen what we are facing. In my constituency, we had never had floods. How long are we going to be like this,” she said.
However, the Minister of State for Finance (Planning), Amos Lugoloobi, explained that response to disasters in the country has been affected by a huge budget deficit for disaster interventions.
He said that only Shs62 billion of the required Shs2.2 trillion is available for disaster related responses in the financial year 2021/2022.
“As fate may have it, the disasters we have had this year have been very unprecedented. It is a challenge for all of us to ensure that we put aside so many of our priorities and commit this money towards solving disaster,” he said.
Lugoloobi also clarified that the fund for disaster response is not appropriated to the Office of the Prime Minister, but rather under Treasury Operations in the Ministry of Finance.
“The money is in a pool in the Ministry of Finance. If a disaster relates to a bridge, the Ministry of Works should apply for that money. If a disaster relates to food relief, the Ministry of Disaster should apply for that money because we cannot tell where the disaster will strike,” Lugoloobi said.
Deputy Speaker, Among, also directed the Committee on Presidential Affairs and the Prime Minister to visit all disaster prone areas and develop specific strategies, in a bid to find lasting solutions to manage disasters.