The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hon. Hilary Onek, has threatened to resign over the conduct of the new Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja.
According to a letter dated October 29, 2021, to the Prime Minister, dejected Onek noted thus..“From the time of your appointment, I have been observing with total displeasure the fact that my role and that of my deputy as the Ministers in charge of refugees and disaster and the lead policy makers on matters of refugee and disaster management have been totally usurped by your office,” said Onek.
Meanwhile we’ve learnt that conflict between Onek and Nabbanja started when the Prime Minister diverted Shs5 billion from the Shs15 billion allocated to the Ministry of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees.
According to reports, the money was part of a contingency budget to support areas affected by disasters.
The matter was further brought to Parliament where MPs wondered why the Premier diverted the funds and yet it is the Ministry for Disaster Preparedness that is charged with responding to disaster issues.
Nabbanja explained that she needed the Shs5 billion because she had plans to manage other disaster related issues
But the conflict appears to have escalated with Onek officially writing to Nabbanja to express his disappointment.
“Hon Prime Minister, if you have decided to carry on working like this and rendering my docket irrelevant, kindly put it in writing to H.E the President who is the appointing authority and I will relieve myself of the responsibilities and allow you carry on with your duties,” said Hilary Onek in a letter.
The Minister says Nabbanja calls for meetings and visits disaster areas without informing him.
He gave the example of the October 29 meeting during which Nabbanja met with local leadership of Bududa without involving the line ministry “which may lead to decisions being made that contradict earlier and official cabinet positions.”
Onek said Nabbanja also purged the department of disaster management and took over distribution of relief items and caused interdiction of staff without proper investigation.
The 9 OPM staff were interdicted on accusations of procuring substandard relief items for the flood victims in Kasese District following an investigation by the head of State House Anti-Corruption Unit, Col Edith Nakalema.
Onek now says the staff were accused of causing financial loss without conducting a forensic audit by involving the office of the Auditor General.
On October 5, Nabbanja wrote to Onek halting the settlement of refugees in Kyangwali over land ownership dispute, which he says was arrived at without involving the line ministry officials.
Onek warned Nabbanja that “undercutting the Ministry of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees and directly working with local government officials will lead to further contradictions and confusion.”
The Minister reminded Nabbanja that he worked under three Prime Ministers – Apollo Nsibambi, Amama Mbabazi and Ruhakana Rugunda – who executed their mandate of coordinating legislative agenda, leading government business in Parliament and monitoring ministry programs.
“They never got involved in the micro management of other ministries,” said Onek, adding, “If you decide to micromanage other ministries, what then is the role of the sector ministries who are supposed to plan, make policies and deliver on the manifesto of H.E the President?
Meanwhile we’ve learnt that staff at OPM are worried about the conflict between Onek and Nabbanja which appears to deepen every single day.
“Work is being paralysed,” said a source.
It remains unclear if President Museveni has taken steps to diffuse the tension at OPM.