The proposed bill to revise the mandate of the National Agricultural Exports Promotion Board (NAEB) has drawn mixed reactions from Members of Parliament.
This was during debate on the new bill establishing functions and responsibilities of NAEB tabled before the parliamentary committee for agriculture, livestock and environment for further scrutiny, yesterday.
Whereas some MPs backed the law to give the institution more powers to even hold other agencies accountable, others were conscious, saying it may result into giving the body unlimited powers.
Reacting to article 6 of the bill in respect to specific responsibilities of the body, MP Eugene Balikana, a member of the committee proposed that more powers should be given to the body to monitor and hold responsible partner agencies, especially districts, in case they fall short on specific targets in terms of producing for export.
“The current context of the bill does not show legal provisions that task districts to honor their commitments especially in performance contracts when it comes to the increase in the production of agricultural based products,” he said.
Balikana, said this will ensure that NAEB coordinates all these activities to ensure minimal error and hold to account those that fall short, adding that the current status leaves room for blame games.
“We have seen cases where we put to task leaders over a number of things and they start the blame game, that so and so was assigned to handle it,” said Balikana.
Although NAEB is a parastatal which operates with support of ministries of Agriculture and Trade and Industry, its current governing law restricts the body only to regulation.
However, MP Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, the chairperson of the committee urged fellow legislators to exercise caution, saying on top of usurpation of powers, they should also be mindful of duplicity of functions because NAEB does not operate in isolation.
“We should bear it in mind that partners are not only districts, there could be others, thus we cannot bring all strategic plans and or other working schemes into one law that governs NAEB, moreover we are not going to task districts to start doing transformation and exportation of agro-products,” she said.
According to George William Kayonga, the CEO of NAEB, the review of the institution’s mandate was motivated by the zeal by government to improve agricultural production and ensure value addition to make the Rwandan produce competitive on the global market.
“In the implementation of our mandate there are two parts which are critical; when we are implementing policies, we also engage partners in the process, and this law should provide working modalities, that means that should there be issues on projects that are cojointly implemented, we should ensure swift coordination,” he said.
According to the new bill, NAEB among other things, will, through its strategic investment programme, take a lead by investing in sectors facing more challenges but have potential to shore up the country’s exports portfolio in order to narrow the import-export gap the country is currently grappling with.
This kind of investment is envisaged to be a precursor for private investors to venture into the same sector.
The bill is still being discussed by the committee before it is tabled again before the plenary session for final endorsement.