The Independent

BY DENIS MUSINGUZI

March 11, 2012

It is painfully clear the problem is not lack of laws and policy frameworks but lack of implementation efficiency.

The signing of the PSAs on February 3, 2012 by Tullow, CNOOC, Total and government despite standing court cases and resolution by parliament slapping any oil transactions until comprehensive legislation is made, has attracted a lot of uproar. At the height of it has been the parliament which accuses the government of contempt of parliament, and a host of other civil society organizations, both of which have threatened to petition Ugandans, including pregnant mothers in hospitals contesting against the agreement.

Their agitation sounds credible at first since the discovery of 2.5 billion barrels of oil in the Albertine region in western Uganda holds potential for significant economic transformation for Uganda. Estimated at $74 per barrel, it means the oil is worth $148 billion, the money believed to be enough to run the present national budget for about 42 years without donor funding. This certainly turns the oil management into a hotspot; poor governance of the oil wealth is globally known to evoke a curse.

On the second thought however, Andrew Mwenda has provokingly presented the argument, that by blocking the signing of oil contracts the 9th Parliament will not improve but rather worsen the nascent sector, in such a profound manner that makes one to deeply rethink parliament’s posturing at fighting corruption. It should be recalled that parliament made the resolution following bribery allegations based on unfounded documents. Incidentally, Mwenda’s candid criticism of parliament comes at a time when public faith in the 9th Parliament has been greatly reduced by their unanimous and shameless acceptance of Shs 103 million each, to purchase sleek cars.

The acceptance of the money in the name of performing their “public” role, with utter disregard of the needy civil servants such as doctors and teachers who even do not enjoy a small portion of the hefty benefits and privileges enjoyed by parliamentarians makes one doubt their resolve at fighting corruption. The possibility that parliamentarians are fighting to leverage their personal and not public benefit is evident; the likelihood of them being purchased is clearly high. It is helpful to recall that the majority Constituent Assembly delegates who provided constitutional term limits are the same who lifted them, barely ten years later, at a shameful price of Shs 5 million, without any substantive justification.

What makes one even all the more suspicious is that the MPs’  posturing is not about the merits and demerits of the PSAs, but more insignificantly about making enabling legislation for leveraging public benefits from oil. I say insignificantly because any keen Ugandan is painfully aware that Uganda’s problem is not lack of relevant laws or required policy frameworks, but lack of implementation efficiency in the delivery of public goods and services, which parliamentarians are quiet about. Uganda has in fact become a cemetery of dead laws, dusted in law books, never in reality, but scarcely applied, if not selectively…Read more.