Parliament Blocks Trade Ministry Budget Amidst Calls for Permanent Secretary’s Removal

museveni reinstates ssali as trade ministry accounting officer despite scandal
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The approval of the 2024/25 national budget for the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives in Uganda has hit a roadblock as Parliament’s Trade and Tourism Committee refuses to proceed until the Ministry takes action on its recommendation to dismiss Permanent Secretary Geraldine Ssali. The Committee cites concerns about her fitness for office.

Mwine Mpaka, Chairperson of the Trade and Tourism Committee, announced the decision during a meeting to review the budget. The Committee had called the meeting after the Ministry failed to provide an action-taken report on disciplinary measures against officials implicated in three investigations by the Committee.

The strained relationship between the Committee and Ssali worsened when she took the Trade Committee to court, accusing it of bias and exceeding its mandate. Mpaka expressed his reluctance to allocate funds to the Ministry without a resolution to the ongoing issues.

Minister Francis Mwebesa defended the Ministry’s actions, asserting that the Committee’s requests were implemented but were subsequently overturned by a letter from President Museveni, preventing Ssali’s dismissal. Mwebesa emphasized the need for the Ministry to function despite the challenges.

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Richard Gafabusa, MP for Bwamba County, echoed Mpaka’s sentiment, refusing to participate in any meeting allocating funds to the Ministry while Ssali remains in office. Minister of State for Trade Harriet Ntabazi disagreed, urging the Committee not to punish the entire Ministry for the actions of one individual.

The controversy stems from allegations of inflating renovation costs on Farmers’ House, the Ministry’s headquarters. Despite recommendations from Parliament for Ssali’s dismissal, President Museveni intervened, ordering her reinstatement due to her efforts to save taxpayers’ money in a rent deal at Kingdom Hall Kampala.

The Committee also criticized the Ministry for not reporting corruption allegations to the Inspectorate of Government and the Director of Public Prosecution for possible legal action.

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