Lawmakers on Tuesday blocked the Executive from proceeding with the tabling of the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2023 that sought to operationalize the merger of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
The House also blocked Public Service Minister, Wilson Muruli Mukasa, from tabling the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Repeals and Amendments) Bill, 2023, which would see more than 40 agencies either abolished or merged.
The government has for about five years been considering rationalization of agencies, and the process needed the amendment of the laws since most of the affected agencies were a creation by Act of Parliament.
During the plenary sitting presided over by Speaker, Anita Annet Among, lawmakers wondered why the Executive would circumvent an already ongoing process in Parliament that needed Minister Muruli’s response to the findings of a report by the select Committee on the merger of government agencies.
Bukanga North MP, Nathan Byanyima, wondered why the Minister, who never presented a response to the select Committee’s report, would proceed to table Bills on a subject that the House has never exhausted the debate.
“The Cabinet has always been behind that rationalization. This House formed a select Committee here and it reported. The Minister of Public Service asked to be given 60 days. The issue of bringing this [Constitutional amendment] is because they want this one to go together [with mergers].
We can’t allow it. We must be given time to debate. Where are you taking us? To Egypt? Let’s respect each other, this is the same Parliament and when I see Honourable Muruli Mukasa, a senior NRM cadre doing us all these things, then you are taking us back,” said Byanyima.
Banyima was the Chairperson of the nine-member select Committee on the merger of government agencies, which presented its report to the House in May 2022, but it has never been debated pending a response from Minister Muruli.
Other members of the Committee were Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri County), Charles Bakabulindi (Workers), Christine Apolot (Kumi District), Ann Adeke (Soroti District), Dan Kimosho (Kazo County), John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjia County), Patrick Nsamba (Kassanda north) and Tony Ayo (Kwania County).
According to the report, the Committee agreed with the government’s proposals to collapse some agencies and merge others but called for the retention of several others. Some of those proposed by the select committee for retention but have been named in the Bill for dissolution include the National Library of Uganda; Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), Uganda Meteorological Authority, Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA); Cotton Development Authority (CDO); and, Dairy Development Authority; National Information Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U).
“The tearing down of semi-autonomous regulatory agencies in the agriculture sector, namely: the Uganda Coffee Development Authority; Cotton Development Organization; and Dairy Development Authority will negatively affect Uganda’s exports to the international market in the exact manner that Uganda’s tea was affected when the Uganda Tea Authority was abolished. As a result of abolishing Uganda Tea Authority, Uganda tea is sold by auction at Mombasa and at a cheap price and branded as tea from other countries,” read part of the report.
The Committee, while fighting for other UNRA and Uganda Road Fund, report that mainstreaming of such agencies “will expose Uganda’s most valuable asset to risk” because Uganda’s road network is its most valuable asset and constitutes one of the largest assets in the country, valued at UGX 28.8 trillion (at the time of the report”.
The Speaker also supported the need to first debate the Banyima report, saying that it will not be possible for Parliament to process the amendments to over 40 Acts whose passing would lead to the proposed merger.
This morning I passed a message to Honourable Muruli Mukasa saying where you have a repeal of over 40 entities, each entity has a sectoral committee. How are you going to handle all these in each sectoral committee, this means we will have a committee of the whole House? We needed to do these things one-on-one. You are not going to bring everything omnibus and remember all of them have different laws,” said Among.