Budget cuts bite
But leadership it seems is not the only reason the once mighty committee has gone into oblivion. Sources familiar with the workings of the committee and parliament say there are many other challenges.
“The other problem is there has been a general nosedive in commitment to committee work across all committees,” says a source from Parliament.
The source attributes this to what he calls a gap between expectation and reality.
“The MPs have expectations like media publicity and trips or bribes for the shrewd MPs and at the moment there is very little of those.”
“The budget for committees was cut by 24% and this diminished the prospects of trips which deflated motivation. PAC which had a budget of about a billion shillings lost over Shs200 million.”
The Mafabi led committee never lacked funds. Mutumba says because of its incredible work, the committee was well facilitated.
“We had done so well that other organisations outside Parliament and donors were willing to give us extra funds to facilitate our work,” Mutumba says.
But Akora also says the efficiency or inefficiency of the committee cannot be attributed to just leadership. He says membership is also important. He says membership affects committee work if most of the members are new and inexperienced and others are on the committee for publicity and not committee work.
“I think we need to train these MPs first and guide them on how to move forward.”
Akora also thinks members have lost morale because of the powerlessness of the committee.
“For instance, all the time we have done this work, how many accounting officers have been prosecuted, how much money has been recovered?” he asks? “It becomes routine and boring and it makes people lose interest. I personally lost interest because of some of these reasons and I decided to concentrate more on the committee of ICT where I am the vice chairman.”
But Karuhanga says the committee is doing perfectly well and has no challenges. Karuhanga says the education background of the leaders of a committee does not matter. The Auditor General, Karuhanga says, presents clear reports that can be understood and internalised by any member of parliament.
On the issues of experienced members, Karuhanga says it is not the committee leadership that picks members.
“But I don’t even agree that members are inexperienced because I think they are doing well,” he says, “The only reason you people think we are not working is because we changed tactic.”
He says it is wrong for the public to judge them basing on not seeing them on television and newspapers.
“PAC is doing incredibly well. We are dealing with the backlog and we are moving. We are almost done with the previous years and we are currently on 2014/2015. Clearing the backlog won’t make headlines, never mind that sometimes we work into late in the night,” he says.