We said we would plant 40 million trees every year, but now it’s a song because there’s no money.
Members of Parliament in the Natural Resources Committee have criticized the Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, the Hon Matia Kasaija, for diverting the Environment Fund from the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to the Consolidated Fund, saying this has crippled NEMA operations.
“The law is very clear that the tax is intended to address environmental concerns, but the ministry has made it a source of revenue for the entire country without regard to environmental law,” said Committee Chairman, the Honorable Emmanuel Otaala.
“The fund is supposed to facilitate NEMA‘s activities; at least give them 20 percent of the tax to spend on environmental restoration. Look at the national tree planting campaign, we said we would plant 40 million trees every year, but now it is a song because there is no money,” said Akamba.
The committee called on Kasaija to consider funding areas within the Environment and Energy sectors that the committee deemed critical.
Mukono South MP Hon sred Kayondo criticized the government for leaving the authority with minimal staff and few facilities to monitor environmental issues across the country.
“Image NEMA has 36 cars and 26 of them are down; it has 126 employees against 136 districts. Are we going to build a refinery and pipeline and expect NEMA to be on the ground 24 hours a day with 36 cars and 126 employees?” Kayondo asked.
“It is the feeling of this committee that allows NEMA to have offices in the districts; you cannot monitor the environment from Jinja street at the headquarters,” Kwizera added.
Kasaija said he will have to consult other stakeholders on the MPs’ proposal to return the fund to NEMA. He explained that the reason the fund was managed centrally was to regulate the possibility of misuse of funds, citing experience with other funds.
“There are many agencies that have funds, but some did not manage them well; they would collect money and waste it. We agreed as a government that all the money raised should go to the Consolidated Fund,” he said.
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