Clauses in electoral bills presented to Parliament by Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba attract a huge financial implication on the consolidated fund, far above what the government can provide. This is according to State Minister for Planning David Bahati, speaking in Defence of the failure by his ministry to issue a certificate of financial implication for the bills.
Bahati was making reference to proposals by Niwagaba, the shadow Attorney General, to amend several clauses of the constitution in a way that would shake up the current state structure. He, for instance, wants the size of cabinet reduced to 21 Ministers and 21 State ministers, who, however, should not be chosen from among elected Members of Parliament. The current Cabinet has 32 cabinet Ministers and 48 Ministers of State.
Niwagaba also wants to abolish the office of the Prime Minister and that of the Vice President and introduce the office of the Deputy President, who will be elected by Ugandans, to take on the two roles. He also seeks to introduce a panel of speakers to advise the office of the Speaker and preside over parliament in case the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are indisposed.
Niwagaba was granted leave by Parliament in September, 2019 to secure a certificate of financial implication from the ministry of Finance to enable him to table the draft, as a private member bill. But the timeframe within which he was supposed to secure the certificate elapsed without a nod from Finance.
Ugandan law restricts private members from tabling bills that could have a charge on the consolidated fund, a provision which frustrates efforts by the opposition groups in parliament to have the suggested amendments tabled successfully.
Today, Bahati told the legal and parliamentary affairs committee of parliament that the government would be required to facilitate the proposed panel of speakers, and finance the election of a deputy president, a move which he says is costly for a country like Uganda. He added that
Bahati further explained that when the Ministry of Finance received the bill, guidance was sought from the Attorney General on whose response came long after the 60-day period of issuing the certificate had elapsed. He asked the committee to consider the fact that the bill has clauses that affect the constitution in totality which government needs time to plan for.
Bahati also objected the proposal to scrape off the office of the Prime Minister and the proposed reduction in the number of Ministers saying that this would greatly affect the economy and the running of the government.
Mitooma Woman MP Jovah Kamateeka questioned if Ministers who are also MPs are not overburdened with constituency work while at the same time, serving the country.
Bahati says that the proposal to appoint ministers from outside parliament is equally costly as currently Ministers are paid allowances only in addition to their Parliamentary service salary, yet ex-officials have to earn a complete package.
The other proposed reforms include provisions to involve the Judicial Service Commission in the appointment of the Electoral Commission chairperson, allowing any voter to challenge the outcome of presidential elections, reinstating Presidential term limits and changing the name of the Uganda Police Force to Uganda Police Service. The draft equally provided for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General as ex-officio’s in Parliament, serving a five-year renewable term.