MPs reject move to rationalise National Forestry Authority

Parliament has rejected the government proposal to move the National Forestry Authority (NFA) to the Ministry of Water and Environment.

Parliament presided over by Speaker, Anita Among, voted against the second reading of the National Forestry and Tree Planting (Amendment) Bill, 2024 aimed at mainstreaming NFA to the Ministry of Water and Environment.

The Chairperson of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Dr Emmanuel Otaala, on Wednesday presented the Report on the Bill arguing that mainstreaming NFA would pose a threat to the forest cover which the authority has tried to keep over the years.

Otaala said that the Minister of Water and Environment needed to stick to its core role of policy formulation, establishment of standards, resource mobilisation and offering support supervision and allow NFA to manage and conserve forest cover.

He also said that rationalisation of the entity would lead to the massive loss of employment opportunities as NFA employs Ugandans across the country. He said NFA currently employs 364 staff countrywide.

“The committee recommends that the National Forestry Authority be retained as a semi-autonomous entity and not be mainstreamed into the Ministry responsible for environment as proposed in the Bill,” Otaala said.

Otaala also proposed the amendment of the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act, 2003 to mandate the entity to manage district forest reserves.

Several MPs objected the move aimed at merging NFA, saying that the Ministry of Water and Environment would overshadow the work of NFA which would be a department in the Ministry.

“They are raising a lot of non-tax revenue, what reason are you going to give this person in Isingiro who never saw a tree until NFA was established in Isingiro and now we have Rwoho Forest reserve which has been restored, improved upon and even expanded,” said Hon. Alex Byarugaba (NRM, Isingiro South).

Hon. Isaac Modoi (NRM, Lutseshe County) said that other countries have been coming to Uganda to benchmark on how they can set up their forestry authority.

During today’s sitting, the Minister of Public Service, Hon. Muruli Mukasa and the Minister for Water and Environment, Hon. Beatrice Anywar, argued in favour of streamlining the entity. 

Hon. Muruli stated that the only thing that will change will be the removal of the board which will save tax payers a lot of money. He said everything else to do with the role of NFA will remain with the exception of it becoming a department under the Ministry of Water and Environment.

Hon. Anywar stated that the Ministry of Water and Environment has already been working with NFA and all the achievements of NFA have been attained together with the Ministry, thereby emphasising the need to rationalise the agency to make the work more efficient.

“NFA will continue to do its function. We are dissolving the NFA and transferring the functions. Members were concerned about the management of carbon credit. I want to assure you that in the Ministry we have the climate change department,” she said.

AUDIO: Anywar

Hon. Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA, Bugiri Municipality) stated that Uganda has committments made under the international obligations under forestry and forest cover.

AUDIO: Basalirwa

The Speaker called for the vote, which was lost, for the second reading of the Bill.

AUDIO: Speaker Among

The House however approved the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (Amendment) Bill 2024 which transferred the mandate of civil registration from URSB to National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).

Meanwhile Minister Muruli Mukasa withdrew three bills; the National Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 2023; the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill 2023 and the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2023.