President Yoweri Museveni has expressed anger at Parliament over the blockade of budget allocated by Government for the Atiak sugar factory in Amuru district, Northern Uganda.
Two months ago, the budget committee of Parliament rejected the supplementary allocation of 274.1 billion shillings for the Atiak Sugar Factory despite the call by the State Minister for Finance, Henry Musasizi to support the allocation.
Musasizi explained to MPs that the allocation is aligned with the government’s industrialization policy and its commitment to balanced regional development and fairness.
However, MPs expressed concerns over the substantial investments made by the government in the company, considering the increasing risks and the factory’s failure to produce the expected amount of sugar. The factory began operations in October 2020, but encountered numerous challenges due to an inadequate and fragmented planning and implementation approach, as highlighted by the committee.
Several MPs argued that the funds allocated to the Atiak Sugar Factory were already sufficient to initiate its establishment. They also pointed out that the government’s expenditure through the Uganda Development Corporation and NAADS on the factory amounted to 563.22 billion shillings whereas the private investor had contributed only 121 billion.
The budget committee contended that given the government’s significantly higher investment in the factory compared to the private investor, it was economically illogical for the private investor to hold a majority share (60%) while the government remains a minority shareholder with 40%.
Atiak Sugar Factory at Gem Village in Pachilo Parish in Atiak Sub-county in Amuru District is jointly owned by the Government of Uganda and Horyal Investment Holdings Company Ltd. The latter belongs to businesswoman Amina Moghe Hersi.
President Museveni’s reaction
President Museveni has now expressed anger at Parliament for blocking the budgetary allocation for the sugar factory.
Museveni while speaking to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party MPs at the ongoing retreat in Kyankwanzi, cautioned MPs to back off the issue of Atiak sugar factory, saying that he knew what he was doing.
“I sent you [budget request to] support Atiak sugar [factory]. I know what I am doing, it is a correct thing to do,” Museveni told NRM MPs.
The President went on to criticise the lawmakers that blocking the supplementary budget for Atiak was very wrong.
“Your line is wrong, you are wrong to block it, and you are going to hurt that area. Whatever problems they may have; they can be solved. So, that one, I don’t like it. I don’t agree with you blocking Atiak,” he said.
Drama in Parliament
A few weeks ago, on May 16, 2023, Parliamentary sitting ended in a standoff over 108 billion shillings extended to Atiak Sugar Factory in the financial year 2021/22.
MPs were concerned that a parliamentary resolution for the funds to be turned into equity shares in Atiak Sugar Factory was altered into the purchase of equipment.
In the 2021/22 financial year, Parliament was presented with a request for 108 billion shillings to support Atiak sugar factory. Government holds 40% shares in Atiak sugar factory, and the majority 60% are held by a private proprietor, Amina Moghe Hersi.
MPs said that the percentage of shares held by the government and the private investor should not be what it is today.
The Butambala MP, Muwanga Kivumbi who doubles as the shadow minister of finance, said, “when you look around, we would have invested nearly 700 billion shillings in Atiak, and the Atiak owners (private investor) have invested less than 140 billion shillings. People of Uganda should be the true owners of Atiak.”
Kivumbi wondered how a Parliamentary resolution on 108 billion shillings in the 2021/22 financial year was altered.
“A resolution of this Parliament was communicated to Parliament that we passed money for purchase of the equipment to the Ministry of Finance. That was a distortion of the recommendation of Parliament which majority report was adopted, and a communication to the Ministry of Finance was different from what we recommended.”
Fingers were pointed at the Deputy Clerk of Parliament, Henry Waiswa, for causing the alteration. The Atiak sugar factory is located 17km north of Atiak off the Gulu-Nimule road in Gem Village,