Kawempe South MP Munyagwa Mubarak Sserunga is the new Chairperson of Committee on State Authorities and Statutory Enterprises (COSASE). He spoke to The Independent’s Agnes E. Nantaba.
What is your comment on your appointment as COSASE chairperson?
I am forever grateful to Forum for Democratic Party (FDC) for giving me the opportunity to serve as head of the biggest oversight committee in parliament. I am known to be an activist for a long period of time and most elites have never taken me to be serious but FDC came out to disprove the country that Munyagwa can do something else that is more challenging. The party leadership wasn’t limited for options because there are other senior leaders and MPs who have served in the house for more than one term and would be equally deserving. The appointment wasn’t expected for someone of my character to replace a senior lawyer and more experienced MP (Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu). Here I am ready to take the mantle.
What is your take on the appointment being seen as a reward for stepping down for FDC president Patrick Amuriat during the party’s last presidential race?
FDC doesn’t use positions to reward people. All the party leadership did was to prove that a different style or philosophy of work can also deliver. If it was about being rewarded, we wouldn’t see people like MP Betty Nambooze being appointed as spokesperson of the Minority government or shadow cabinet. Even the leader of opposition, Betty Aol Ochan was never seen moving with President Amuriat, Opposition Chief Whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda supported Mugisha Muntu in the FDC presidential race but was named on the cabinet. Those are just baseless allegations.
The appointment also attracted a lot of cynicism especially on social media with many a commentator saying it is a downgrade given your comical character. What are your thoughts on this?
One of Uganda’s biggest problems is the elites and social media commentators who hold themselves in high regard as though they came as Mars. We all went to schools with some of them but it was a choice for some of them to become corporates while we chose political activism. That explains why some people doubt if Dr Besigye is a medical doctor because of what he chose to do.
We are different brands which translate into a different style of work. It is true that is the way I branded and presented myself at the very beginning but I can’t change my identity. The world has accepted me the way I am and my constituents believe in me. Expect results through a different style of work.
What do you make of the state of affairs in COSASE; including allegations of corruption that have shrouded the committee?
It is unfair to hold such baseless allegations since no past leader of COSASE has been proven guilty of corruption charges during their tenure. Even under the law, there is a presumption that anyone is innocent until proven guilty. Such allegations cannot shadow our positive energy and efforts to make Uganda a better country.
How different is your philosophy?
My predecessor believed in budget size; targeting where government has invested a lot. But my philosophy lies in interacting with all entities regardless of budget size because they are all equally important. We intend to interact with all entities and recommend accordingly but where necessary probe. We have already written to all entities; asking them to submit responses in regard to the auditor general’s report. We have also tasked them to serve us with lists of all origins of all employees and the districts of origin, salary structure, and dates of engagement and expiry for those on contract; including board members. They are required to share with the committee their challenges and achievements. Our mandate ranges from processing auditor general’s report to supervision. We may rush at probing financial abuses and indiscipline forgetting that some entities are lacking in other areas. For instance some agencies don’t guarantee fair competition for jobs because some conduct head hunting.
I don’t need to copy anything from my predecessor because I am up to the task. We have the capabilities that require me and the team to do this. The educational requirement for someone to become MP is advanced level certificate which makes every MP eligible to chair any committee in parliament including me. I am above the minimum qualification with a degree in science and now pursuing a second degree- bachelor of laws.
How do you intend to maintain the standard set by your predecessor of having COSASE as one of the most active committees of Parliament?
I don’t intend to turn the committee into an only probe committee. Our work entails processing the auditor general’s report to presenting the findings before the house. Probing will come in but where necessary. My assessment is that it has not done well if less than a quarter of the expected entities interacted with the committee. To start with, we expect all entities to have submitted their responses by March 22 and thereafter embark on a marathon of interaction which will see all of them covered by end of our tenure.
As a committee, we have agreed to divide ourselves into subcommittees that will be tasked to handle a number of agencies, have them processed and report to the meeting of the entire committee. Once we find the responses of some agencies or entities sufficient, there will be no need for interaction.
What is your strategy to dealing with the cyclical backlog problem that saw your predecessor handle only 14 entities out of the 112?
Backlog is a problem that has persisted from many regimes. Most of our predecessors apart from Hon Ssemujju tethered themselves on entities with big budgets leaving out smaller ones. For instance entities like Allied Health Professional Council, Uganda Dental and Medical Practitioners Council and Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council have budgets ranging from Ushs1-2 billion which is very low compared to entities like Uganda National Roads Authority with a budget of Ushs2 trillion. Budgets should not dictate which entity to interact with or probe. They are equally important because the above regulate the entire medical profession; therefore hold the country’s health sector. Once the auditor general’s report highlights issues regarding their mode of operation, COSASE must interact with them.
What is your say on the COSASE report into the fraudulent closure and disposal of seven commercial banks?
Hon Katuntu did a commendable job considering the observations. Sometimes facts speak for themselves and in this case, the facts were substantive. He deserves credit for trying hard to fish for facts. Although the recommendations weren’t commensurate to the observations, the observations were glaring. We should accept differences in character because some people might be lenient and not others.
What is not in contention however is that my predecessor’s style of work doesn’t match the interests and expectations of Ugandans. The challenge is that majority of Ugandans are oppressed and angry people who expected harsh treatments to some of the individuals who were probed and indicated to being fraudulent. Ugandans are waiting for redemption from all corners so for an opportunity like the BOU probe only had them expect COSASE to go their way by being harsh. The committee did a great job.