The Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) shall not have money appropriated to it until matters surrounding its legality are addressed, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has said.
The Executive Director, PIBID, Prof. Florence Isabirye Muranga and officials from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development led by their Undersecretary Ms. Betty Kasimbazi while appearing before PAC on Thursday, 8th September 2016, were informed that the Attorney General had offered an opinion against the independence of the body.
He instead advised that the Banana Initiative be under the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), an opinion Prof. Muranga has since rejected.
“As long as the status of the PIBID remains quasi-legal-quasi-political, we shall not vote funds for the initiative,” said Hon. Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality).
Hon. Angeline Osegge, the Chairperson PAC, weighed in on the matter saying that as long as the Initiative’s legal status is not resolved, it remains a private entity not worthy of tax payers’ money.
When MPs put PIBID officials to task on why the entity loathed working under NARO, Prof Muranga said the two entities are operationally incompatible.
“We will not fit in the mandate of another agency because such an initiative would limit us and stifle investment,” Prof. Muranga stated.
Hon. Akello Judith Franca (Agago), said that the entity is not interested in following the law and therefore must suffer financial bankruptcy.
“Since they have unilaterally declared independence from the laws of this country and the opinion of the Attorney General, we will not entertain them,” Hon. Akello said.
On the issue of patents developed under the Initiative using public funds, Hon. Mpuuga assured Prof. Muranga that the patents belong to government.
“You cannot be compensated as long as you patent under government. It [patent] cannot be considered to be yours,” said Hon. Mpuuga.
“Then you are going to kill science,” retorted Prof. Muranga adding, “I could have lost my life for the work that I did. I came back from Europe because my life was in danger. This talk that I am using government money to grandiose myself is against my faith.”
The Committee resolved to follow up the matter with the Ministry of Finance and make necessary recommendations.
When PIBID was set up in 2005, the President of the Republic of Uganda was named as the patron of the body. It is governed by a Board and Management Committee. Other major collaborators include professionals, private and public sectors and farmers.